During the New Year holiday in Japan, there is a custom of decorating one's front door way with a pine decoration known as "Kadomatsu." The Kadomatsu acts as a land mark for the gods to take notice of houses that wish to be blessed with good fortune in the new year. The "Omatsuhiki" Festival is a ritual in the village of Tabayama where locals scramble and fight over the Kadomatsu and has also been a traditional way to bring the previous year to an end and pray for the safety and rich harvest of the following year. At this festival, locals stack the household pine and bamboo decorations on the back of a wooden sled known as "Shura," that has been used as a form of shipping for ages. The sled weighs up to two tons when fully loaded and is called "Omatsu-sama" by the locals who, along with visitors, pull it throughout the village by two ropes reaching over 30m long. A seat is located in the middle of the sled where flute and drum players excite the festivalgoers. After proceeding 50m or so, the sled it stopped, sake is handed out, and mandarin oranges and mochi are thrown out into the crowd from the second story of homes along the street. This is repeated several times over three hours until the sled proceeds roughly 400m and has reached the awaiting deity at the end. Take part in this strange tradition that has stayed alive for 300 years.
The Shura is a wooden shipping sled that has been used since ancient times. Pine and bamboo decorations from the local households are piled on and it is crowned with that year's zodiac on front. When fully loaded it reaches two tons and is known by the nickname "Omatsu-sama." Thirty meter long ropes are attached to the front and it is pulled all the way to where the local deity resides as an offering.
The Omatsuhiki is a popular hands-on public event that is celebrated by the whole village along with the visiting out-of-towners. Loads of sake is drunk by participators and mochi is scattered all along the road for people to take home. The most exciting part is when locals toss mandarin oranges from their second story windows to the crowd below. Visitors are able to take part as well so get in there and have fun. There are also many songs and dances held as entertainment during the Omatsuhiki. The "Kiyari Uta" song that is sung while pulling the sled brings all participants closer and creates an exciting mood for all. Be sure to check it out as well.
The Kadomatsu decorated on the Shura is originally a household decoration and can reach up to 150cm tall. Miniature versions of this Kadomatsu are popular gifts at this festival and make great souvenirs to bring home to your loved ones, showing a perfect example of the New Years feeling of Japan.
Please be careful of children during the Mikan-maki (Mandarin orange scattering) when it becomes the most crowded.
Be careful not to drink too much of the free sake handed out.
Some of the festival takes place on one blocked-off side of a national road so please be careful of cars going by in the next lane that is still open.
Access to Tabayama
Okutama Station on the JR Ome Line
[Nearest Bus Stop]
Take the Nishi Tokyo Bus towards Tabayama Mura, get off at the Nakajuku Station. It is a 56min ride from Okutama Station to Nakajuku.
Tabayama Village, Kitatsuru District, Yamanashi Prefecture
National Rd. 411
1min walk from Nakajuku Station