Nagahama Hikiyama Matsuri 2018 Festival Schedule


Video link: https://youtu.be/3zYuarHUHXs

Updated: April 13, 2018

Nagahama Hikiyama Matsuri (長浜曳山祭) is a major float festival held annually on several days centering on April 15 by Nagahama Hachimangu Shrine in the city of Nagahama in northern Shiga Prefecture. The main highlight is child kabuki actors (boys age 5 to 12) performing on four ornate wooden floats pulled through the main streets. (If you can read Japanese, download the festival’s official guide brochure.)

2018 Nagahama Hikiyama Matsuri Festival Schedule

(Main highlight dates in red, times are approximate)

April 7 (Sat.), 10 am–3 pm: At Hikiyama Museum, exhibited floats to be replaced. Details here.

April 9th–12th, from 8 pm: Hadaka-mairi worship at Nagahama Hachimangu and Hokoku Shrine. Details here.

April 10th–12th: Child kabuki practice open to the public. Details here.

April 12, from 6:30 pm: Portable shrine procession from Nagahama Hachimangu to Hokoku Shrine and Otabisho. Details here.

April 13, from 5:30 pm: Child kabuki performances in local neighborhoods. Details here.

April 14, 9:30 am to 1 pm: Child kabuki performances in local neighborhoods. Details here.

April 14, 1 pm to 4 pm: Float procession to Nagahama Hachimangu. Details here.

April 14, at 7 pm: Child kabuki evening procession from Nagahama Hachimangu to Hikiyama Museum. Details here.

April 15 (Main day): Child kabuki performances all day at Nagahama Hachimangu Shrine (10 am to 2:15 pm), Otemon Arcade, and Otabisho (4 pm to 8:15 pm). Details here.

April 16, 9 am to 9 pm: Child kabuki performances from 9 am to evening in local neighborhoods. Details here.

—Tips for seeing the Nagahama Hikiyama Festival—

When you arrive at JR Nagahama Station, you should go to the tourist information center outside the turnstile and ask what time and where the floats will perform kabuki. If you will see the festival on April 15, the main day, you can conveniently see all four floats perform kabuki in succession (40 min. each) at Nagahama Hachimangu Shrine from 10 am to 2:15 pm. If you arrive Nagahama later in the day, you can see all four floats perform in succession at the Otabisho (large parking lot) near Nagahama Station from 4:00 pm from 8:15 pm.

You can also walk between Nagahama Hachimangu Shrine and the Otabisho (see map below), especially along Kurokabe Square and the Otemon shopping arcade where the floats will pass or perform in the afternoon. You can see the floats up close (artwork, etc.) while they are parked.

Each of the four floats will perform kabuki four times on April 15 for a total of 16 kabuki performances. So there will be a kabuki performance once or twice every hour from 10 am to 7:35 pm. You can easily see one or more kabuki performances somewhere in central Nagahama during this time.

Be aware that it is “standing room only” for all kabuki performances. It can be tiring to watch all four kabuki performances while standing. You could bring a collapsible chair, but people standing in front of you will block your view. (Although a limited number of paid seating is available at Nagahama Hachimangu Shrine, they sell out quickly.) If you plan to see the festival in the evening, the temperature can get much cooler so bringing a jacket is advisable.

About Nagahama Hikiyama Matsuri

All festival events are within walking distance from JR Nagahama Station on the JR Hokuriku Line. Since there’s no detailed festival information and schedule in English from official sources, I provide this festival schedule in English based on official festival information and my recommendations. With a little knowledge of what’s what and what’s going on, I’m sure you’ll be able to enjoy this festival much more after reading this post.

There are 12 kabuki floats (called hikiyama) with a kabuki stage and one “guardian” float named Naginata-yama with no stage. Every year, only four of the kabuki floats perform kabuki at the festival. Three groups of four kabuki floats take turns appearing in the festival each year so each float group appears (performs kabuki) every three years. The same four floats appear together each time. Only the Naginata-yama guardian float appears in the festival every year, but does not perform kabuki. To see all 12 kabuki floats, you would have to see the festival three years in a row.

Although April 15 is the main festival day (called Honbi 本日), there is a slew of festival events and kabuki performances before and after this day. If you can’t make it to Nagahama on April 15, you can still see kabuki performances on April 13 (evening), 14 (morning), and 16 (all day).

My video embedded above shows all the major festival events during this period. A few ceremonies and rituals are closed to the public. On Dec. 1, 2016, Nagahama Hikiyama Matsuri was inscribed as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity as one of the 33 “Yama, Hoko, and Yatai float festivals in Japan.”

Another thing to know is that the four kabuki-performing floats draw lots to determine the order of their performances. Being Float No. 1 is most desirable since they get to perform first on April 15 (main festival day) and can end early and go home early. They also have the honor to host the Sanbaso prayer dancer who performs before their kabuki play.

The four Nagahama Hikiyama floats appearing in April 2018 and their kabuki plays and performance order are as follows:

Shojo-maru (猩々丸) Float No. 1 –  Ichi-no-Tani Futaba Gunki Kumagai Jinya「一谷嫩軍記 熊谷陣屋の場」
Ho’o-zan (鳳凰山) Float No. 2 – Koi Bikyaku Yamato Orai Umekawa Chube’e Ninokuchi-mura (Ninokuchi Village)「恋飛脚大和往来 梅川 忠兵衛 新口村の場」
Takasago-zan (高砂山) Float No. 3 – Gishi Gaiden Tsuchiya Chikara「義士外伝 土屋主税」
Kotobuki-zan (壽山) Float No. 4 – Niai Meoto Shusse no Hikitsuna – Nagahama Kazutoyo Chiyo「似合夫婦出世絏 長浜 一豊の屋敷」

How Nagahama Hikiyama Matsuri Festival Started

According to legend, when Toyotomi Hideyoshi was the lord of Nagahama Castle, his first son Hashiba Hidekatsu was born in the early 1570s. To celebrate his son’s birth, Hideyoshi gave gold dust to the townspeople. The people used the gold to make a wooden float to celebrate the son’s birth. Hideyoshi paraded the float at Nagahama Hachimangu Shrine. This was the start of the Nagahama Hikiyama Matsuri. This legend is often told, but it is not true.

Nagahama Hikiyama Festival originated from an annual samurai procession held by Nagahama Hachimangu Shrine founded in 1069 by the famed samurai Minamoto no Yoshiie (1039-1106). The shrine worships Hachiman (Emperor Ojin), the divine guardian of samurai.

In the late 16th century, daimyo Toyotomi Hideyoshi relocated the shrine to make way for his Nagahama Castle on the shore of Lake Biwa. At the same time, Hideyoshi rebuilt Nagahama Hachimangu that had been ravaged by war. The shrine’s annual samurai procession dedicated to Minamoto no Yoshiie was also resurrected with Hideyoshi’s samurai retainers.

By the 18th century well after Hideyoshi’s death, the samurai procession became more elaborate with wooden floats being added. When kabuki became popular in the 18th century, Nagahama’s townspeople thought about staging kabuki on the floats. They asked the prominent carpenter and woodcarver family of the late Fujioka Izumi (1617–1705) to design a float having a kabuki stage. The early floats were much simpler than today’s floats. The Fujioka family went on to design and build many of the floats. The idea of staging kabuki on festival floats spread from Nagahama to float festivals in nearby prefectures like Gifu.

Nagahama Hikiyama Matsuri Festival Schedule of Events in 2018

Here is a detailed schedule of Nagahama Hikiyama Festival events in 2018 (times are approximate, and delays may occur). Also see the festival map toward the end of this post. The photos are screenshots from my video embedded above. Click on the photo to see the respective video segment.

April 7, 2018: Float Replacement Event (曳山交替式)
10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.: The hikiyama floats exhibited in the Nagahama Hikiyama Museum will be pulled out and taken back to their neighborhoods to prepare for the festival. Then the four floats appearing in next year’s festival will be brought into the museum to be displayed.

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April 9: Senko-ban Visitation (線香番)
Festival officials visit the four floats’ kabuki practice halls to watch a kabuki rehearsal and time the performance. Before clocks were invented, they used a burning incense stick (senko) to measure the kabuki play’s length. This is also when the parents see their sons perform for the first time. However, the actors do not wear the makeup and costumes yet. This ceremony is not open to the public since the practice hall will be filled with the boys’ parents and relatives.

April 9–12: Hadaka-mairi Shrine Worship (裸参り)
From 8:00 p.m. every night on these four days, scantily-clad young men (wakashu 若衆) from the four floats gather at their respective kabuki practice hall and parade to Nagahama Hachimangu Shrine where they pray and purify themselves by running around a well and splashing themselves with the cold well water. They pray for a successful festival, healthy actors, and to draw a favorable lot on April 13 that determines the order of the floats’ performances. They all want to be Float No. 1 which performs first and goes home first on April 15 (main day).

From Nagahama Hachimangu Shrine, they march through Otemon-dori shopping arcade to Hokoku Shrine across town where they pray and splash in a well again. On their last worshipping day on April 12, Otemon-dori shopping arcade has festival musicians and representatives from non-performing floats (i.e. those not performing in the festival this year) to greet the wakashu men. They play festival music (called shagiri 囃子) and offer cups of sake (rice wine) to the wakashu leaders and Kujitori-nin. They shout “Yoisa! Yoisa!” the whole time and drink a lot of sake.

You will notice that they wear different colored headbands. The young man wearing a red headband is the Kujitori-nin (籤取り人) who will draw the lot at the lot-drawing ceremony on April 13. The men wearing a blue headband are the guards (警護) who direct the wakashu. The men with a white headband are the rank and file. When a float’s wakashu pass by another float’s wakashu, a scuffle may break out since they are rivals in drawing lots. Quite a spectacle at both shrines and in-between.

April 12: Portable Shrine Procession (Mikoshi togyo 神輿渡御)
From 6:30 pm, men carry a mikoshi portable shrine from Nagahama Hachimangu Shrine to the Otabisho rest place across town while shouting, “Yoisa!” They go through the Otemon-dori arcade and a few side streets. Along the way, festival musicians from other floats greet the portable shrine (no sake is served). Nagahama Hikiyama Matsuri’s festival music is called shagiri (しゃぎり) instead of hayashi (囃子). The portable shrine was made in 1676 by Fujioka Kanbe’e (藤岡甚兵衛) with donations from shrine parishioners. The Fujioka family was a renown woodcarver and Buddhist altar maker in Nagahama.

The portable shrine brings the deity closer to the people and chases away evil spirits. They occasionally raise the portable shrine to wish happiness and safety to the people around it. The portable shrine arrives at the Otabisho at about 7:30 pm. The Otabisho is a rest place for the god traveling in a portable shrine. The portable shrine remains in the Otabisho until April 15 evening.

April 10–12: Public Kabuki Practice (公開稽古)
Only during these three days, each float’s kabuki practice hall is open to the public. You can watch the boys (mostly age 5 to 10) practice their kabuki play usually once in the morning, afternoon, and evening. The practice hall is typically a small community center in the float’s neighborhood. It has a large room with a makeshift kabuki stage in the same size as on the float. (For practice times and locations, see the official festival guide book in Japanese or ask the tourist information desk at Nagahama Station.)

Anybody can watch them practice without any reservation or admission fee, but they do not wear the kabuki makeup and costumes (no dress rehearsals). They have been practicing every day since March 20 (spring vacation), so by this time, they have mastered their roles quite well. They receive some fine-tuning during this time.

When you watch them practice so hard (sometimes they even break down and cry), you will come to appreciate how much work it takes to put on a kabuki play. You can also see what the boys really look like without the kabuki makeup. Then when you do see them in kabuki makeup (from April 13), you will be amazed at their transformation.

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Before the kabuki makeup and costumes…

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And after the kabuki makeup and costumes.

The kabuki play is directed by three instructors called San’yaku (三役): The choreographer, tayu narrator, and shamisen player. The choreographer casts the actors’ (yakusha) roles usually according to their physical attributes. The choreographer is usually an experienced kabuki actor and directs the actors’ movements and voice. The tayu narrates the story in a highly stylized manner like in kabuki. The shamisen player provides the only music played during the kabuki performance.

Since 1990, the Nagahama Hikiyama Cultural Association (長浜曳山文化協会) has been working to train local artists to become tayu narrators and shamisen players in the festival. In 2016, for the first time, all four floats had at least one locally-trained tayu narrator or shamisen player. Previously, they were all from outside Shiga.

Each performing float also publishes its own festival program booklet or brochure introducing the float and kabuki actors in Japanese. (If it has English, it’s usually not very good.) You can buy one for cheap at the practice hall.

*Tip: On April 12, you can see three different festival events: Kabuki practice during the day, the portable shrine procession from 6:30 pm, and the hadaka-mairi shrine worshippers from 8 pm.


April 13
The main events on this day are the lot-drawing ceremony and the first kabuki performances in full costume for the public held in the evening.

Taiko Drum Call (起し太鼓): Before dawn at all float neighborhoods, a small team walk around and beat a taiko drum as a wakeup call.

Sacred Staff Receiving Ceremony (御幣迎えの儀)
7:00 a.m.: Representatives (including the Sacred Staff Messenger age 5–7) from the four floats go to Nagahama Hachimangu to receive their sacred staff (zigzag paper streamers) to be mounted on their floats.

Lot-Drawing Ceremony (Kujitori-shiki 籤取り式の儀)
1:00 p.m.:
 This ceremony is held to draw lots to determine the order of the four floats’ kabuki performances. Being Float No. 1 is most desirable since they get to perform first on April 15 (main festival day) and can end early and go home early. They also have the honor to host the Sanbaso prayer dancer who performs before their kabuki play.

At Nagahama Hachimangu Shrine, four unmarried lads representing the four floats wear a red headband (like they did at the Hadaka-mairi) and sit in front of the shrine priest inside the worship hall. They are the lot drawers (Kujitori-nin).

Four pieces of paper are written with float numbers one to four. Each piece of paper is crumpled into a ball and placed on a tray as a lot to be drawn. There is a tray for each lot, and each lot drawer selects and carries back a tray. While sitting together, they all open their paper lots at the same time to see who is Float No. 1, 2, 3, and 4.

The Lot-drawing ceremony is not for the public since the shrine’s worship hall is too small to allow the public inside to see the ceremony. However, you can see them from outside celebrating (throwing the lot drawer into the air, etc.).

April 13 Kabuki Performance (十三日番)
5:30 p.m. to around 8:30 p.m.: The four floats hold their first public kabuki performances in full makeup and costume in their respective neighborhoods. (For exact performance times and locations, see the official festival guide book in Japanese or ask the tourist information desk at Nagahama Station.) Each float will perform kabuki only once or twice this evening.

In case of rain, the float will be covered with a tarp or moved to the shopping arcade for shelter.

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Sanbaso dancer (三番叟)

About the Sanbaso dancer
Float No. 1 receives the honor of hosting the Sanbaso dancer. The Sanbaso dances on Float No. 1 before the float’s kabuki play and he is the first performer on April 15 (main festival day) at the shrine. He holds a bell tree shaped like a ripe rice plant and performs prayer dances for a rich harvest.

The Sanbaso performs two short dance segments. The first segment is Momi-no-dan (stomping segment) where he waves his sleeves and stomps on the ground like he is preparing the ground for planting. He also does the “crow jump” (karasu-tobi) by jumping three consecutive times.

The second segment is Suzu-no-dan (bell segment) when the Sanbaso shakes his bell tree and mimes the planting and growing of rice. His costume has a crane design and his high cap has tiger stripes and a red sun on both sides.

The Sanbaso is a well-known dancer in Noh and kabuki. He comes from a Noh prayer dance called Okina (翁) dating from the 14th century as a religious ritual. Okina has three dancers praying for longevity, peace, endless joy, prosperity, and rich harvests. Sanbaso is the third dancer in Okina which is traditionally performed on auspicious and celebratory occasions like New Year’s and at the beginning of the day’s Noh or kabuki program. This is why he always appears first on the main festival day. The Sanbaso dances each time the float performs during the festival days. The boy playing the Sanbaso is recruited from the public in Nagahama and he is around age 10. He has his own choreographer, tayu narrator, and shamisen player. Ciick here to see the Sanbaso video clip.


April 14
The day before the main festival day is also a busy day. Lots to see/photograph.

Kabuki Performance in Local Neighborhoods (自町狂言)
9:30 a.m. to 1 pm: Morning performances of kabuki plays are held by the four floats in their respective neighborhoods. The floats perform once or twice in the morning. For exact times and locations, see the official festival guide book in Japanese or ask the tourist information desk at Nagahama Station.

Floats Proceeding to Nagahama Hachimangu Shrine (Noboriyama 登り山)
1 pm to 4 pm: After they finish their morning kabuki performances, the four floats proceed from their neighborhoods to Nagahama Hachimangu Shrine. Float No. 4 arrives at the shrine first, followed by the others in reverse numerical order. All four floats arrive at the shrine by 4 p.m. It’s a spectacle to watch them pull the floats through the streets and the shopping arcade as they shout “Yoisa! Yoisa!” It’s a stop-and-go process. Meanwhile, the Naginata-yama float is pulled from its storehouse across town and arrives at the Otabisho rest place at 4 p.m. It is the only float that does not go to the shrine.

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About the Naginata-yama “Long Sword Float” (長刀山/小舟町組)
This is the only float with no kabuki stage, an Imperial-style carriage with only three wheels. Carries banners and long swords. A ceremonial and “festival guardian” float appearing every year on April 14-15 only at the Otabisho. It does not go to Nagahama Hachimangu Shrine. Built in 1775 with Chinese lion sculptures on four sides. It’s a nice float, but does not attract the crowds. It’s a quiet float.

After the Sword Procession on April 15, red banners are hoisted on the float. Before Float No. 1 arrives at the Otabisho in the late afternoon, Naginata-yama’s red banners are replaced by white ones bearing the Minamoto Clan’s crest. The float’s caretaker is the Naginata-gumi association from the lakeside Kobuna-machi neighborhood (小舟町 now in Asahi-cho) where Minamoto Yoshiie landed for his victory march to Nagahama Hachimangu.

Evening Kabuki Procession (Yu-watari 夕渡り)
7:00 p.m.: Evening procession of all the child kabuki actors in full costume walking from Nagahama Hachimangu Shrine to Nagahama Hikiyama Museum through Otemon-dori shopping arcade. It starts with actors from Float No. 4, then No. 3, 2, and 1. Occasionally, the actor will stop and pose for photographers. Each actor is escorted by an adult relative (usually the father) holding a paper lantern and wooden placard indicating the actor’s name, age, and kabuki character. The procession includes festival musicians (no floats). A real crowd pleaser for locals and tourists alike.

All the kabuki actors (and stagehands) are treated like royalty during the festival. They receive gifts from relatives and friends and are very much pampered by their parents for undertaking such a difficult and rigorous task of kabuki acting. (A few of them even do it more than once.) The mothers have to make sure they don’t get sick or catch cold. This childhood experience stays with them for life and many of them come back to Nagahama to help out with the festival. In recent years, the floats have had difficulty recruiting kabuki actors (and musicians) since there are fewer kids in their neighborhoods.


April 15: Main festival day (Honbi 本日)
The festival’s peak day with kabuki performances here and there in central Nagahama from 9:45 am to 8:15 pm. The four floats start at Nagahama Hachimangu Shrine where they perform in succession. Then they start moving toward the Otabisho and perform three more times at multiple locations (see map below). Before and after the kabuki performances, there are other processions and ceremonies. Note that the floats can be prone to be late (especially in the evening), so the time schedule is only approximate.

Before dawn: Taiko Drum Call (起し太鼓) at all float neighborhoods.

April 15 Events at Nagahama Hachimangu Shrine (Times are approximate.)
7:00 a.m.:
 Spring Festival Ceremony (春季大祭). A religious ceremony, not really for tourists.

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8:30 a.m.: Morning Kabuki Procession Arrival (Asa-watari 朝渡り) of child kabuki actors arrive at Nagahama Hachimangu Shrine. Colorful procession, but too early in the morning for spectators.

9:20 a.m.: Sword Procession (Tachi-watari 太刀渡り) of sword bearers arrives at Nagahama Hachimangu Shrine after going through Otemon-dori arcade. Led by a golden sacred staff, this procession reenacts the Hikiyama Matsuri’s original samurai procession before floats were added. Young men wear ceremonial aprons (similar to sumo wrestlers) and young boys wear samurai armor and a long naginata sword (2–3 meters long). They depict Minamoto no Yoshiie’s victory march to the shrine after he won the Gosannen War (1080s) in the Tohoku Region. Minamoto no Yoshiie was a famous samurai who founded Nagahama Hachimangu Shrine in 1069.

By the 16th century, Nagahama Hachimangu was ravaged by civil war, so Nagahama Castle Lord Toyotomi Hideyoshi moved and rebuilt the shrine at its present location further inland. He also used his own samurai retainers to restart the shrine’s annual festival procession dedicated to Minamoto no Yoshie.

The Sword Procession is conducted by the Naginata-gumi group which also pulls the Naginata-yama float. It has the Matajirohama beach (又次郎浜) where Minamoto no Yoshie landed for his victory march to the shrine.

After resting at the shrine for a short period, the Sword Procession goes to the Otabisho to mount their long swords on the Naginata-yama float.

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9:35 a.m.: Okina Maneki (翁招き) is an opening ritual held in front of Float No. 1 to mark the start of kabuki performances. A long bamboo pole attached with a wooden placard is waved to the shrine and to Float No. 1 as a signal to start the festival and the festival music begins. Float No. 1 is then moved into position for the first kabuki performance (opening with the Sanbaso dancer).

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10:00 a.m.–2:15 p.m.: Kabuki at Nagahama Hachimangu Shrine (Hono kyogen 奉納狂言) has the four floats perform kabuki at Nagahama Hachimangu Shrine in succession starting with Float No. 1. These performances are dedicated to the gods. Each play is about 40 min. long. After a float finishes a kabuki performance, it leaves shrine and goes to the next performance location on the way to the Otabisho. The next float is then moved into position in the shrine to give its kabuki performance. So there is a break time between performances.

If you want to see all the kabuki plays on the four floats, one option is to stay at the shrine to see all of them. But it’s standing room only, so you may get tired standing for that long. There is paid seating, but they require advance tickets (costing a few thousand yen) sold in Feb. and usually sell out quickly. If you sit on the ground, you won’t be able to see the float since everyone is standing in front of you.

You can just watch one or two floats at the shrine, take a break, and watch the other floats at other locations and times. For kabuki performance times at the shrine and elsewhere, see the table below. All four floats will also perform at the Otabisho later in the afternoon and evening (also standing room only).

Each float has five to seven kabuki actors and one or two stagehands. There used to be more actors like 10 or more per float, but there are fewer kids now. It’s also quite expensive to rent the kabuki costumes. Since each kabuki float performs every three years, that’s how long they have to raise money for the festival.

Although watching the kabuki is impressive without even understanding it, you would enjoy it more if you knew the kabuki story. Most of the kabuki plays are well known and you may be able to find an English synopsis online if you know the kabuki play’s title in Japanese or English. Sometimes the kabuki play includes something about Nagahama.

*The order of the floats’ performances is decided on April 13 by the Kuji-tori ceremony (籤取り式の儀) where they draw lots to see which float is No. 1, 2, 3, or 4.

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Performing at Kanaya Park.

After performing at the shrine, each float will move across town mainly along Otemon-dori road (shopping arcade, Kurokabe Square, etc.) to the Otabisho rest place. Along the way, they will stop and perform kabuki three more times with the last performance at the Otabisho by Float No. 4 held from 7:35 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. The map below has a red line indicating the float route on April 15 and the kabuki performance spots (1 to 7) along the way. To enlarge the map, click here.

Float No./Location1. Hachimangu2. Shrine path3. Kanaya Park4. Hikiyama Museum5. Arcade intersection6. Kurokabe Square7. Otabisho
Float No. 1
(Shojo-maru)
10:00–10:45 am12:00–12:45 pm2:00–2:45 pm4:00–4:45 pm
Float No. 2
(Ho'o-zan)
11:15–11:55 am1:15–1:55 pm3:15–3:55 pm5:15–5:55 pm
Float No. 3
(Takasago-zan)
12:25–1:05 pm2:25–3:05 pm4:25–5:05 pm6:25–7:05 pm
Float No. 4
(Kotobuki-zan)
1:35–2:15 pm3:35–4:15 pm5:35–6:15 pm7:35–8:15 pm
*Location numbers correspond to the numbers in the map below.

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April 15 Otabisho Events
The Otabisho (御旅所) is a small shrine building on a large parking lot near Hokoku Shrine (short walk from JR Nagahama Station). It is where the portable shrine rests during its journey away from Nagahama Hachimangu Shrine. (The time schedule below is only approximate. Delays may occur. If you are visiting on a day trip and plan to stay until the end, be sure to check the time of your last train home.)

4:00–8:15 pm: Successive kabuki performances are held by the four floats as they arrive at the Otabisho one by one. Float No. 1 should arrive at 3:30 p.m. and start performing kabuki at 4 p.m. The last float (Float No. 4) is scheduled to finish its kabuki performance at 8:15 p.m. The kabuki actors are whisked home right after their performance. They don’t stick around for the latter events. They are exhausted and need to sleep and be ready for the next day.

9:00 p.m.: Portable Shrine Procession (Mikoshi togyo 神輿渡御)
After all the floats finish performing at the Otabisho, a short Shinto ceremony is held and the portable shrine that was brought to the Otabisho on April 12 is taken out and carried around the Otabisho a few times before it goes back to Nagahama Hachimangu Shrine. Note that it can get chilly this late in the evening, so dress warmly.

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9:30 p.m.: Returning Floats (戻り山)
The floats start to leave the Otabisho to return to their neighborhoods. Naginata-yama is always the first float to leave, followed by Float No. 1 and the other three floats in order. The last Float No. 4 might leave as late as 11 pm. The floats go back to their neighborhoods.


April 16: After-Festival Kabuki (Goen kyogen 後宴狂言)
9:00 a.m. to 8:40 pm: Each of the four floats will perform kabuki three times this day in their respective neighborhoods in central Nagahama. They will also perform on stage at the Nagahama Bunka Geijutsu Kaikan hall for a paying audience from 10:55 a.m. Each float’s final performance of the festival is called senshuraku (千秋楽). It starts from 7:30 p.m. or 8 p.m. (For exact times and locations, see the official festival guide book in Japanese or ask the tourist information desk at Nagahama Station.) Expect to see some tearful kids and relieved parents after the last show is over.

April 17: Sacred-Staff Returning Ceremony (御幣返しの儀)
8:00 am: Representatives (including the Sacred Staff Messenger around age 5–7) from the four floats go to Nagahama Hachimangu to return their sacred staffs (zigzag paper streamers) that were mounted on their floats. Not much for tourists.


For more information about the Nagahama Hikiyama Festival in English, including the festival’s origins, history, and all the floats, watch my YouTube video (embedded above). I don’t mean to brag, but it’s the world’s most comprehensive video about the festival in English. Being 91 min. long, it’s a long video, but you’ll learn a lot and enjoy the festival a lot more by knowing more about it and knowing what to expect.

For festival details in Japanese, see or download the official festival guide book pdf.

Shiga Image Quiz

Updated: Jan. 30, 2018

Take the Shiga Image Quiz and learn more about Shiga Prefecture!

Shiga Image Quiz has 50 questions showing 50 images of Shiga’s most iconic sights and attractions you should know about. This quiz is an excellent visual introduction to Shiga.

This quiz is easy for people familiar with Shiga. For newbies, some questions might be difficult, but you will still learn a lot about Shiga since the correct answer is displayed immediately after each question.

You will see 25 questions per page. After answering 25 questions, click on “Continue” at the page bottom to see the next page. If you don’t see the “Continue” button, it means you have not answered all the questions. Scroll backward to answer any unanswered questions. The questions are displayed in random order.

The quiz mentions Shiga’s 19 cities and towns as follows: Aisho, Higashi-Omi, Hikone, Hino, Koka, Konan, Kora, Kusatsu, Maibara, Moriyama, Nagahama, Omi-Hachiman, Otsu, Ritto, Ryuo, Taga, Takashima, Toyosato, and Yasu.

Anyone is free to use these quiz questions at parties, in the classroom, etc. For example, you can project it on a screen for students to answer. (Internet connection will be required.) This quiz requires no registration and no fees. You shall remain anonymous and no personal data about you will be collected. Quiz authored by Philbert Ono.

There is also the more challenging Shiga Quiz with 100 questions. Try this quiz too when you have time.

Click or tap on “Start Quiz” below. It may take a few moments for the quiz to load…

Shiga Image Quiz (Version 1.00)

Shiga Quiz

Updated: Jan. 30, 2018

Take the Shiga Quiz and see how much you know about Shiga Prefecture!

Shiga Quiz has 100 wide-ranging questions covering Shiga’s culture, history, historical figures, art, and major sights and products. It’s a long quiz that may require 45 min. or longer to complete. However, there’s no time limit to finish the quiz.

The quiz is relatively easy for people familiar with Shiga. For newbies, some questions might be difficult, but you will still learn a lot since the correct answer is displayed immediately after each question. The quiz is heavily illustrated, so it should sustain your interest to complete the quiz.

You will see 25 questions per page. After answering 25 questions, click on “Continue” at the page bottom to see the next page. If you don’t see the “Continue” button, it means you have not answered all the questions. Scroll backward to answer any unanswered questions. A few questions have many answers (as many as 20!) to choose from. On older browsers, the questions might not be displayed in the proper order.

The quiz mentions Shiga’s 19 cities and towns as follows: Aisho, Higashi-Omi, Hikone, Hino, Koka, Konan, Kora, Kusatsu, Maibara, Moriyama, Nagahama, Omi-Hachiman, Otsu, Ritto, Ryuo, Taga, Takashima, Toyosato, and Yasu.

Anyone is free to use these quiz questions at parties, in the classroom, etc. For example, you can project it on a screen for students to answer. (Internet connection will be required.) This quiz requires no registration and no fees. You shall remain anonymous and no personal data about you will be collected. Quiz authored by Philbert Ono.

There is also the shorter Shiga Image Quiz with 50 questions.

Click or tap on “Start Quiz” below. It may take a few moments for the quiz to load…

Shiga Quiz (Version 1.00)

Kyoto University’s Biwako Shuko no Uta 100th anniversary celebration

Unveiling the new song monument at Kyoto University. (記念碑除幕式)

京都大学「琵琶湖周航の歌」誕生百周年記念事業の報告

After the epic 100th anniversary celebration of Biwako Shuko no Uta in Shiga with a Lake Biwa rowing trip and concert in June 2017, it was Kyoto University’s turn to celebrate. On November 25, 2017, they unveiled a new song monument on campus and held a lecture session, music festival, and party. It was an all-day affair from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. coinciding with the university’s annual school festival called “November Festival.”

Biwako Shuko no Uta (Lake Biwa Rowing Song) was created in June 1917 by rowing club members (especially Oguchi Taro) at an old elite university called Daisan Koto Gakko (No. 3 High School, nicknamed “Daisanko” or “Sanko” 三高) which merged with Kyoto University in 1949. Kyoto University has since adopted the legacy of Sanko by absorbing the Sanko campus (now the Yoshida-South Campus right across from the Main Campus), the rowing club, and adopting Biwako Shuko no Uta as one of the university’s official songs.

The Kyoto University Rowing Club (KURC) has a very active and dedicated alumni association called Noseikai (濃青会), which means “Dark Blue Association,” named after the rowing club’s official color of dark blue. (Their oar blades are dark blue.) This association spearheaded the planning and execution of the university’s celebration of the song’s 100th anniversary and also greatly helped with Shiga’s 100th anniversary song celebration in June 2017 which included a four-day rowing excursion around Lake Biwa by KURC alumni. They also helped to raise funds to build a new song monument on campus. Much of the fund-raising was done by the university’s water sports clubs (rowing, yachting, canoeing, and swimming).


Video

I took photos and videos of Kyoto University’s celebration and compiled the highlights in a 66-min. video that includes English subtitles. The video includes excellent concert performances of Biwako Shuko no Uta and Lake Biwa Rowing Song by the Kyoto University Glee Club and Kyoto University Symphonic Band. There’s also flashback footage from the Lake Biwa rowing trip in June 2017.(京都大学「琵琶湖周航の歌」誕生百周年記念事業のダイジェスト版動画)

Video link: https://youtu.be/_b3WrfV0rMI

Quick Links(動画早送りリンク)
Song monument unveiling(記念碑除幕式): https://youtu.be/_b3WrfV0rMI?t=3m51s

Lecture (Iida Tadayoshi)(講演会): https://youtu.be/_b3WrfV0rMI?t=11m

Hitsuji-gusa (Glee Club): https://youtu.be/_b3WrfV0rMI?t=16m46s

Nara no Miyako (Glee Club): https://youtu.be/_b3WrfV0rMI?t=17m41s

Introduction of Okaya and Niigata guests: https://youtu.be/_b3WrfV0rMI?t=19m16s

Lecture (English version 英語版): https://youtu.be/_b3WrfV0rMI?t=22m21s

Thompsons’ message: https://youtu.be/_b3WrfV0rMI?t=27m41s

Lake Biwa Rowing Song (Glee Club): https://youtu.be/_b3WrfV0rMI?t=28m46s

Lecture (Murai Yoshiko 資料館): https://youtu.be/_b3WrfV0rMI?t=30m9s

Music festival(音楽祭): https://youtu.be/_b3WrfV0rMI?t=32m50s

Biwako Shuko no Uta (Symphonic Band): https://youtu.be/_b3WrfV0rMI?t=33m36s

Speeches (Kawazoe Shinsuke, Koshi Naomi, Hiraoka Shoshichiro): https://youtu.be/_b3WrfV0rMI?t=37m22s

Sanko Alumni and Himawari Choir: https://youtu.be/_b3WrfV0rMI?t=40m54s

Mandolin Guitar Ensemble Kaguya: https://youtu.be/_b3WrfV0rMI?t=48m23s

What Shall We Do With The Drunken Sailor (Glee Club): https://youtu.be/_b3WrfV0rMI?t=50m58s

Biwako Shuko no Uta (Glee Club): https://youtu.be/_b3WrfV0rMI?t=53m53s

Biwako Shuko no Uta audience finale: https://youtu.be/_b3WrfV0rMI?t=56m35s

Party(懇親会): https://youtu.be/_b3WrfV0rMI?t=1h2m26s

Acknowledgements: https://youtu.be/_b3WrfV0rMI?t=1h4m56s

If you don’t have time to watch the video, you can continue reading to see photos instead. Links to the respective video footage are also provided below.


New Biwako Shuko no Uta song monument at Kyoto University
京都大学の「琵琶湖周航の歌」記念碑
New song monument

Front side of the new Biwako Shuko no Uta song monument at Kyoto University.

Kyoto University’s 100th anniversary celebration of Biwako Shuko no Uta started with the unveiling of a new song monument on the Yoshida-South Campus (the former Sanko campus) at 11:00 a.m. on November 25, 2017. (Video here.) This campus is right across the road from the main campus (and main gate). (See map and directions below.) Built to commemorate the song’s 100th anniversary, the new song monument is a beautiful, double-sided, stainless-steel panel with a brushed-metal finish.

The front side has the Japanese lyrics (all six verses) overlaid on a recent photo of Kyoto University Rowing Club members rowing on Lake Biwa. The uncredited calligraphy of the Japanese lyrics on the song monument was done by Ichihara Atsushi (市原 厚), a KURC alumnus who has been publishing a kiri-e calendar for the song every year (sold at the Biwako Shuko no Uta Shiryokan song museum in Imazu). The lower part has a Japanese explanation about the song and a photo of Oguchi Taro (right) who wrote the lyrics and Yoshida Chiaki (left) whose melody was used for the song. This is my English translation of the explanation(記念碑の表面の解説の英訳):

Daisan Koto Gakko (No. 3 High School) rowing club member Oguchi Taro left in June 1917 (Taisho 6) on a fixed-seat boat to row around Lake Biwa. On the second day on June 28, they stayed at a ryokan in Imazu.

That evening, he composed a draft of a rowing song that started with “Ware wa Umi no ko” (We’re children of the lake). They sang it to the melody of Hitsuji-gusa (Water Lilies), a popular song at the time composed by Yoshida Chiaki. The melody matched the song well and they sang it together.

The song was well received at student gatherings. This is how Biwako Shuko no Uta became a college dormitory song of Sanko (Daisan Koto Gakko).

Today, the song continues to be sung by the university’s rowing club when they row around Lake Biwa and by many people at Kyoto University and class reunions.

Also, as a song expressing affection for Lake Biwa, the song is lovingly sung by people in Shiga Prefecture and across Japan.

To mark the 100th anniversary of Biwako Shuko no Uta, we built this monument here.

Heisei 29 (2017)

From the late 19th century, dormitories at Japan’s elite universities started a tradition of creating their own “dormitory songs” to be performed at their annual dormitory festivals. Dormitory boarders sang the song together at dormitory festivals and student gatherings. While most of these songs fell into obscurity, some dormitory songs like Biwako Shuko no Uta continue to be sung.

Rear side of the song monument.

Rear side with rowing map and English lyrics. 地図と英語歌詞

The rear side of the song monument shows a bilingual Lake Biwa map of the rowing route taken by Oguchi and his rowing mates in June 1917 and my Lake Biwa Rowing Song English lyrics (all six verses).

Members of the KURC alumni association (Noseikai) initially proposed building this song monument for the song’s 100th anniversary. There were already song monuments in Shiga and Okaya, Nagano Prefecture, but none at Kyoto University. So they thought the university should also have a monument.

The university agreed to have the song monument on campus, but it required the monument to also include English lyrics. At first, the alumni association wondered where they could obtain English lyrics, but they soon found my English version of the song. They contacted me in 2016 and asked for my permission to use my English lyrics. I said, “YES, YES!! Please do so!!” “You can use it for free! No charge!!” And so they did.

Kyoto University has been pushing to become more international and more attractive for international students. So they wanted a monument that international students could also understand. I was very impressed to hear this. A song monument in Japan with both Japanese and English lyrics must be extremely rare. I haven’t seen one until now.

The current Kyoto University President is Yamagiwa Juichi who speaks English. He has traveled the world to study primates and gorillas as a way to learn more about early humans and their evolution. So he’s very internationally oriented. Having someone at the top with an international outlook helps a lot.

I’m certainly very honored and delighted to see my English lyrics on a monument. Monuments are usually built to point out something (or someone) that is important. So monuments naturally attract people’s attention. It’s important for a monument to be easy to read and in a good location where people can see it. This new monument meets both of these conditions.

It was the Verse 1 song monument in Mihogasaki, Otsu that first piqued the interest of Iida Tadayoshi, the foremost song researcher (since 1974) who has written a few books about Biwako Shuko no Uta. And I also first learned about the song when I saw a statue of composer Oguchi Taro and a song monument in Okaya, Nagano Prefecture. So song monuments can be very worthy to have. I wonder if there’s any other song in Japan that has this many monuments for it in three prefectures.

I’m very hopeful that this new monument will pique the interest of both Japanese and non-Japanese students in the song and in Shiga. I believe the song’s story, background, melody, and vivid depiction of Shiga can fascinate any young mind. The monument also has a QR code that you can scan with your mobile device to access the rowing club’s official 100th song anniversary website where you can learn more about the song and watch song videos in both Japanese and English.

Map and directions to new song monument

Here’s a map of the exact location of the new song monument (and the other song monuments). Zoom in on Kyoto. From JR Kyoto Station, get out the Karasuma exit (Kyoto Tower side) and go to Bus Stop D2 to board bus No. 206 bound for Kitaoji Bus Terminal. Get off at Kyodai Seimon-mae (京大正門前). The ride takes about 35 min. The main campus will be across the street from the bus stop, and the entrance to the Yoshida-South Campus is across the road facing the main campus.


Lecture Session (記念講演会) (Video here)

After the unveiling of the song monument, we had lunch and moved to the Kyoto University Clock Tower Centennial Hall for an hour-long Lecture Session (including performances by the Kyoto University Glee Club) starting at 12:30 pm.

Iida Tadayoshi

Song researcher Iida Tadayoshi appeared on video as the keynote speaker. 飯田忠義 「琵琶湖周航の歌」研究家、元NHKチーフアナウンサー

The main speaker was song researcher Iida Tadayoshi. He is the foremost authority on the song. A lot of what we know about the song and the composers is due to his research. He talked about how the song was created by Oguchi Taro and how the Hitsuji-gusa melody by Yoshida Chiaki was adapted to it.

Due to health reasons, Iida sensei was unable to appear in person so he appeared in a video lecture. Video here. After his lecture, the Kyoto University Glee Club sang Hitsuji-gusa (Verse 1) composed by Yoshida Chiaki and Nara no Miyako (Verse 1) which was the song whose melody Oguchi originally considered using for Biwako Shuko no Uta. Video here.

my talk

Video message from Jamie and Megan Thompson.

I was the second speaker, taking about 10 min. to mainly show slides of people who helped and encouraged me before and after I finished writing the English lyrics. Since Jamie and Megan Thompson (who sang Lake Biwa Rowing Song) could not make it to Japan in Nov., I showed a one-minute video message in Japanese from them. Video here.

After my talk, the Kyoto University Glee Club beautifully sang the first verse of Lake Biwa Rowing Song. (Video here.)

Yoshiko

Murai Yoshiko talked about the Biwako Shuko no Uta Shiryokan.

The third and last speaker was Murai Yoshiko, the director of the Biwako Shuko no Uta Shiryokan song museum in Imazu. She used slides to explain about the museum near JR Omi-Imazu Station and encouraged everyone to visit. Video here.


Music Festival (記念音楽祭) (Video here)

After a 30-min. break, the Music Festival (Ongakusai) started at 2:00 p.m. in the same Clock Tower Centennial Hall (capacity 500) as the Lecture Session. Part 1 had the Kyoto University Symphonic Band, Kyoto University Glee Club, Himawari Choir (from Otsu), and Mandolin Guitar Ensemble Kaguya perform or sing Biwako Shuko no Uta and a few other songs.

Part 2 featured a 40-min. talk show by singer Kato Tokiko. The finale had all the performers appear on stage to sing Biwako Shuko no Uta together with the entire audience. The finale was led by Kato Tokiko and the music festival ended at 4:30 pm.

Kyoto University Symphonic Band opened the music festival with Fanfare and played Biwako Shuko no Uta. 京都大学吹奏楽団 Video here.

Short congratulatory speeches were also given by three dignitaries:

Shinsuke Kawazoe, Kyoto University Executive Vice-President (substituting for Kyoto University President Juichi Yamagiwa). 川添信介 京都大学理事・副学長(山極壽一総長の代理)Video here.

Otsu Mayor

Otsu Mayor Koshi Naomi mentioned that Otsu City Hall plays the song to signal the end of the work day, resulting in a decrease of overtime by almost 30%. Video here.

Takashima

Shoshichiro Hiraoka, Deputy Mayor of Takashima (substituting for Mayor Masaaki Fukui), promised to perpetuate the song to the next generation. Video here.

Sanko alumni sing with Himawari Choir from Otsu. 旧制第三高等学校OB + 大津市ひまわり合唱団 Video here.

Sanko alumni wave their school flag. The Sanko logo has a cherry blossom with three stripes.

Mandolin

Mandolin Guitar Ensemble Kaguya. マンドリンギターアンサンブル香久夜 Video here.

Mandolin

Mandolin Guitar Ensemble Kaguya. Great performance.

Kyoto University Glee Club sang What Shall We Do With The Drunken Sailor (video here) and Biwako Shuko no Uta (video here). 京都大学グリークラブ .

A short break after Part 1.

finale

Led by Kato Tokiko, everyone sang Biwako Shuko no Uta in the end. Video here.

Tokiko

Singer Kato Tokiko and Kada Yukiko on stage during the finale.


Party (懇親会) (Video here)

After the music festival, attendees had the option to attend the party from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm on the 2nd floor of the Clock Tower Centennial Hall. This was when we could finally mix and socialize. It was nice meeting and talking with people from Oguchi Taro’s hometown and Yoshida Chiaki’s hometown and rowing club alumni. Very few women though.

Kada Yukiko gave a short speech at the start of the party.

Yacht

Yacht Club showed slides of KURC’s original boat house in Otsu.

alumni

Kyoto University Rowing Club alumni. These three tall men almost represented Japan at the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne.

everyone

In the end, everyone sang the song with Mandolin Guitar Ensemble Kaguya.

remarks

Noseikai chairman Yoshida Tamotsu gave closing remarks. “Nothing made me happier than rowing…” 吉田 保 京都大学ボート部濃青会 会長

The celebrations of Biwako Shuko no Uta’s 100th anniversary in Shiga and Kyoto were quite spectacular. It has spread awareness of the song as a precious hometown asset. Shiga has so few famous hometown songs, and even its most famous one is in danger of being forgotten since it’s not really taught in schools.

Where I come from, there are many, many beloved Hawaiian songs (and dances) that continue to be sung for generations. I cannot imagine growing up in a place that lacks popular hometown songs. It shapes your identity and affinity with your hometown. It would be a major cultural loss if Shiga allowed Biwako Shuko no Uta to fall into obscurity. It is by far Shiga’s most nationally famous song.

It’s comforting to see more people singing the song in Japanese or English. They are posting on YouTube. Anyone is welcome to sing the song in Japanese or English. I still wish John Denver lived long enough to record it. His voice matches the song extremely well.

Thank you to everyone who made the 100th anniversary celebration a great success.

本当に素晴らしい記念事業でした。皆さんお疲れ様でした。

Related video:

Related links:

感 謝
Acknowledgements

京都大学
山極 壽一 総長
川添 信介 理事・副学長
「琵琶湖周航の歌」誕生百周年記念事業実行委員会
京都大学ボート部
中村 佳正 京都大学ボート部長
京都大学ボート部 濃青会
吉田 保 京都大学ボート部濃青会会長
伊藤 七郎

旧制第三高等学校OB

小島 安紀子
尾城 徹雄
青野 正治

京都大学医学部ボート部・芝蘭会艇友会
京都大学ヨット部
京都大学カヌー部
京都大学水泳部・京泳会
ヨットクラブ神陵・京大神陵会

京都大学グリークラブ
京都大学吹奏楽団

その他の京都大学側の関係者・支援者

琵琶湖周航の歌資料館 全スタッフ(2004年以来)
澤田 浩(琵琶湖周航の歌資料館 元館長)
村井 佳子(琵琶湖周航の歌資料館 館長)
びわ湖高島観光協会

故 前田典夫(みちお)

琵琶湖周航の歌100周年記念事業実行委員会
嘉田 由紀子(代表)
加藤 登紀子
小坂 育子
北川 陽大(〜Lefa〜)

飯田 忠義

小口太郎顕彰碑等保存会(長野県岡谷市)
Naoko Nakamura
吉田ゆき (新潟)
ちあきの会

朗読劇団ムサシ(滋賀県高島市)
森本純一(代表)

中日新聞(滋賀版)
毎日新聞(滋賀版)
その他の報道陣

Jamie & Megan Thompson
日永 真梨子
菊井 了・近藤 ゆみ子(レイクリード)
Chikage Fujii(滋賀県湖南市)

その他の関係者・支援者・協力者・友人・親戚・ファン

小口太郎
吉田千秋

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