【UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage】The highlights of the Chichibu Yomatsuri are the floats and the fireworks. The six floats, representing each neighborhood of the city include intricate carvings and are decorated in gorgeous embroidery with gold threads, and can weigh up to 20 tons. There are over 150 to 200 men per float who help navigate while creating the accompanying Hayashi music. The festival reaches its climax when the procession approaches the Dangozaka hill by Chichibu Park. The men run up the 25 degree hill pushing and pulling the massive float as winter fireworks explode overhead. Roughly 7,000 blasts add the perfect touch to this amazing sight. There are many other dances and performances held on the floats for the festivalgoers' enjoyment.
The Chichibu Yomatsuri is Chichibu Shrine's largest annual event and has developed in this local area along side the textile and cloth market called Kinunotakamachi. Now after 300 years of history, this festival has become one of the three major float festivals of Japan.
The city's floats are comprised of four "Yatai" floats and two "Kasaboko" floats. They may look similar at first glance, but take a better look and you'll notice the differences in the roofs and embroidery. The Kasaboko floats originally feature large parasol-like decorations, however, since they get tangled up in the street telephone wires during the parade, they have been removed.
When it comes to 20ton floats, it's a spectacle just to watch it climb a hill. And when it does reach the top of Dangozaka, you'll see and hear the excitement of the crowd. The turns around the tight corners are also dynamically impressive. The floats are slightly raised by poles and turned right on spot in what is called the Girimawashi. After a smooth complete turn, the crowd goes crazy. The accompanying festival music Chichibu Hayashi with its light and enjoyable tempo also energizes the float pilots and the viewers.
The Yatai floats aren't only for pulling around. They are also a stage for performances. Besides the Chichibu Hayashi musicians, there are performers onboard as well. The dance known as Hiki-odori is a Yatai ritual featuring local girls performing to the festive sounds. There is also the Yatai Kabuki plays that impress large audiences.
The festival is held from Dec. 1st to the 6th but fireworks are displayed on only two of those days. First is the main festival day on the 3rd, when the floats climb up Dangozaka hill. Fireworks are also displayed on the night before (2nd) at the eve-festival, along with float pulling and the Hiki-odori. It is not often that one can view such a beautiful co-star performance of floats and fireworks in the winter so be sure not to miss out.
Follow the directions of the float staff and police when around the floats.
Many roads are closed around the festival venue that forbid the entry of cars.
Access to Chichibu City
1. Chichibu Railway: Chichibu Station, Ohanabatake Station (a.k.a Shibazakura Station)
2. Seibu Railway: Seibu Chichibu Station
Address: 1-3 Banbamachi, Chichibu City, Saitama Prefecture (Chichibu Shrine)
Around the station.