Thursday, April 10, 2014

Japanese Prepare for the Summer Harvest with the Takayama Festival

Like most places, Japan has a deep love and appreciation of spring. The arrival of the warmer weather, sunshine, and blossoming of nature after the harsh months of winter is something that just makes everyone want to celebrate. The Japanese celebrate all season long with a wide variety of festivals and holidays. And one of them is just around the corner! Starting April 14th and extending till the 15th, the Japanese will be participating in the exciting festival known as the Spring Takayama Festival. 

Although the origin of this holiday is unknown, it is thought that the celebrations date back to during the time of the Kanamori family’s rule

The festival is centered around a shrine known as the Hie Shrine, which can also be referred to as the Sanno Shrine. This alternate name for the shrine is also the reason behind the other name for the Spring Takayama Festival, which is the Sanno Festival. During this time, the people of Japan are meant to pray for good fortune and a good harvest. Another Takayama festival follows in October, the Autumn Festival, which is purposed towards giving thanks for that year’s harvest.

In addition to the Hie Shrine, floats and puppets are big part of the festival celebration. Skilled craftsman work tirelessly to make exquisite puppets made from wood, silk, brocade, and embroidered cloth. The creators show off their creations with extravagant puppet shows for eager crowds. 

The large floats built for this holiday are so impressive that the festival is famous for the floats alone. The craft, style and decoration for the floats dates all the way back to the 17th century. They are built and decorated to perfection with glided wood and detailed metal-work, then covered with stunning embroidered drapery. The floats are all lined up and then at dusk as many as 100 lanterns are lit on top of the floats and they are released to roam the city throughout the night for everyone to see and enjoy. Seen as a “cultural asset” to the completion of the float parade, the marionettes perform their shows on top of the floats as they explore the city. 

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