Nagahama Hikiyama Matsuri Festival Schedule

The Nagahama Hikiyama Matsuri is a major float festival held in mid-April in Nagahama in northern Shiga Prefecture. The highlight is child kabuki actors performing on four ornate floats. On Dec. 1, 2016 (JST), it was inscribed as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity as one of 33 “Yama, Hoko, and Yatai float festivals in Japan.” The festival is held near JR Nagahama Station on the JR Hokuriku Line.

Here is a schedule of major festival events (times are approximate):

April 13
6:00 p.m. to around 8:30 p.m.: April 13 evening performance of child kabuki plays on four floats in their respective neighborhoods. This is their first public performance in full makeup and costume. In case of rain, certain floats might seek shelter inside the shopping arcade or in the Nagahama Hikiyama Museum’s extra storehouse for their performances. (十三日番)

April 14
10 a.m. to noon: Morning performance of child kabuki plays on four floats in their respective neighborhoods. (自町狂言)
Noon: The four floats are pulled (and pushed) from their neighborhoods to Nagahama Hachimangu Shrine (Noboriyama 登り山).
4:00 p.m.: The Naginata float arrives at the Otabisho rest place.
7:00 p.m.: Evening procession of child kabuki actors walking from Nagahama Hachimangu Shrine to Nagahama Hikiyama Museum through Otemon-dori shopping arcade. (Yu-watari 夕渡り)

April 15 (Main day)
8:30 a.m.: Arrival of child kabuki actors at Nagahama Hachimangu Shrine. (Asa-watari 朝渡り)
9:20 a.m.: Arrival of sword bearers at Nagahama Hachimangu Shrine. (Tachi-watari 太刀渡り)
9:35 a.m.: Opening ritual to mark the start of kabuki performances. (Okina-maneki 翁招き)
9:55 a.m.–10:40 a.m.: Performance of a child kabuki play on the first of four floats at Nagahama Hachimangu Shrine. 40 min. long. (Hono kyogen 奉納狂言)
11:10 a.m.–11:50 a.m.: Performance of child kabuki play on the second float at Nagahama Hachimangu Shrine.
12:20 a.m.–1:00 p.m.: Performance of child kabuki play on the third float at Nagahama Hachimangu Shrine.
1:30 p.m.–2:10 p.m.: Performance of child kabuki play on the fourth float at Nagahama Hachimangu Shrine.

*The order of the floats’ performances is decided on April 13 via 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.

After performing at the shrine, each float will move across town 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 starting at 7:40 p.m. Each float performs the same kabuki play each time.

9:30 p.m.: At the Otabisho rest place after all the floats finish performing, a short Shinto ceremony is held and the portable shrine in the Otabisho is taken out and carried back to Nagahama Hachimangu Shrine.

9:30 p.m.: The four floats start to leave the Otabisho to return to their neighborhoods.

April 16
Morning to evening: After-festival kabuki performances are given by the four floats once each in the morning, afternoon, and evening in their respective neighborhoods in central Nagahama. Each float’s final performance of the festival is called senshuraku (千秋楽). Expect to see some tearful kids and parents after the last show is over. (Goen kyogen 後宴狂言)

For details in Japanese, see or download this pdf file from the Nagahama Hikiyama Museum. Also see the map below or click on this map link.

Shiga Prefecture Videos

Organized index of my videos of Shiga Prefecture on YouTube. I currently have about 90 Shiga videos on my YouTube channel (photojpn). Mostly matsuri festivals. Links go directly to YouTube.

Videos by City and Town
Aisho-cho VideosHigashi-Omi Videos | Hikone Videos | Hino-cho Videos | Koka Videos | Konan Videos | Kora-cho Videos | Kusatsu Videos | Maibara Videos | Moriyama Videos | Nagahama Videos | Omi-Hachiman Videos | Otsu Videos | Ritto Videos | Ryuo-cho Videos | Taga-cho Videos | Takashima Videos | Toyosato-cho Videos | Yasu Videos

Latest and Most Popular Videos

‪Lake Biwa Rowing Song 琵琶湖周航の歌 英語版

Festivals in Shiga (Happy by Pharrell Williams)

All About Lake Biwa 琵琶湖博物館・固有種

We Love Nagahama Hikiyama Matsuri! 長浜曳山祭

Otsu Matsuri Festival 大津祭 宵宮・本祭

Goshu Ondo Dance at Yokaichi Shotoku Matsuri 八日市聖徳まつり・江州音頭総おどり

Hikone Castle + Genkyuen + Festivals 彦根城+ひこにゃん+玄宮園+まつり

Higashi-Omi Giant Kite Festival 2013 東近江大凧まつり

Treasures of Konan, Shiga Prefecture 滋賀県湖南市の宝物

Omi Jingu Shrine Yabusame Horseback Archery 近江神宮流鏑馬神事

Nagahama Hikiyama Matsuri Festival 長浜曳山祭り

Tsuchiyama Saio Princess Procession あいの土山斎王群行

Hiyoshi Taisha Sanno-sai Festival Part 1/2 山王祭

Hiyoshi Taisha Sanno-sai Festival Part 2/2 山王祭

Shiga Governor Yukiko Kada teaches the Goshu Ondo dance

Koka Ninja House, Shiga, Japan 甲賀流 忍術屋敷

Kita-Biwako Steam Locomotive train 北琵琶湖SL

 

Spring Festivals (Mar.–May)

Aburahi Matsuri Festival 2011 油日祭り・奴振り

Ayame Girls at Hyozu Matsuri 2010 兵主祭 あやめ神輿

Hachiman Matsuri 2011 八幡まつり

Higashi-Omi Giant Kite Festival 2013 東近江大凧まつり

Higashi-Omi Giant Kite Museum + Wind Goddess 2013 東近江大凧会館+願い札貼り

‪Hino Matsuri Festival 2011, Shiga 日野祭

Hiyoshi Taisha Sanno-sai Festival Part 1/2 山王祭

Hiyoshi Taisha Sanno-sai Festival Part 2/2 山王祭

Hyozu Matsuri Festival 2010 兵主祭

Iba-no-saka-kudashi Matsuri Festival 2011 伊庭の坂下し祭

Kaizu Rikishi Matsuri Festival 海津力士まつり

Kawakami Matsuri Festival 川上まつり

Kenketo Matsuri Festival (Ryuo, Shiga ) ケンケト祭り

Kenketo Odori Dance in Tsuchiyama ケンケト踊り

Kusatsu Shukuba Festival, Shiga 草津宿場まつり

Matchlock guns at Azuchi Nobunaga Festival 安土信長まつり

Minakuchi Hikiyama Matsuri Festival 水口曳山祭

Misaki Shrine Fire Festival 御崎神社 火まつり

Nagahama Castle & Hokoen Park Cherry Blossoms 長浜城 豊公園

Nagahama Hikiyama Matsuri Festival 長浜曳山祭り

Naginata Odori Festival 長刀踊り まつり

Namura Shrine Sekkusai Festival 2011 苗村神社 節句祭

Nyu Chawan Matsuri Festival 丹生 茶わん祭り

Omi-Hachiman Sagicho Festival 近江八幡 左義長まつり

Omi-Hachiman Sagicho Matsuri Climax 近江八幡 左義長まつり

Omizo Matsuri Festival 2010 大溝祭

Sakata Shinmeigu Yakko-buri Procession in Maibara 坂田神明宮の蹴り奴振り

Shichikawa Matsuri Festival 2010 七川祭

Sushi-Cutting Matsuri Festival すし切りまつり

Taga Matsuri Festival 多賀まつり

Tsuchiyama Saio Princess Procession あいの土山斎王群行

Yokaichi Giant Kite Festival 2004 八日市大凧まつり

Kite crashing at Yokaichi Giant Kite Festival 2007 八日市大凧まつり

Yokaichi Giant Kite Festival 2008 八日市大凧祭り

Yuge Fire Festival at Kobiyoshi Shrine 弓削の火祭り

 

Summer Festivals (June–Aug.)

Biwako Otsu Summer Festival 2006 琵琶湖 大津夏まつり

Goshu Ondo Dance at Yokaichi Shotoku Matsuri 八日市聖徳まつり・江州音頭総おどり

Hino Torch Festival 日野町 火振りまつり

Omi Jingu Shrine Yabusame Horseback Archery 近江神宮流鏑馬神事

Taga Taisha Lantern Festival 多賀大社万燈祭

Taga Taisha Rice-Planting Festival 多賀大社 御田植祭

Takebe Taisha Senko-sai Festival 建部大社 船幸祭

‪Yuki Saiden Rice-Planting Festival, Shiga, Japan 悠紀斎田 お田植えまつり

 

Fall Festivals (Sept.–Nov.)

1st Yuru-Kyara (Mascot Character) Matsuri Festival ゆるキャラまつり

Hikone Castle + Genkyuen + Fall Festivals 彦根城+ひこにゃん+玄宮園+まつり

Hinade Shrine Sumo Odori Dance 日撫神社 奉納角力・角力おどり

‪Ibuki-yama Taiko Odori Drum Dance 2010 伊吹山奉納太鼓踊り

Maihara Hikiyama Matsuri Festival 2010 米原曳山まつり

Suijo Taiko Odori Dance Part 1/2 春照八幡神社 太鼓おどり

Suijo Taiko Odori Dance Part 2/2 春照八幡神社 太鼓おどり

Otsu Matsuri Festival 大津祭 宵宮・本祭

 

Winter Festivals (Dec.-Feb.)

Katsube Shrine Fire Festival 2013 勝部神社の火まつり

‪New Year’s Day at Taga Taisha Shrine 2014 多賀大社初詣

Shrine maidens dancing at Taga Taisha

Taga Taisha Setsubun Festival 多賀大社 節分祭

 

‪Music Videos

‪Biwako Aika 琵琶湖哀歌

Biwako Shuko no Uta at Oguchi Taro Monument in Okaya, Nagano

Biwako Shuko no Uta monument in Okaya, Nagano

Biwako Shuko no Uta with Yoshibue Reed Flutes よし笛「琵琶湖周航の歌」

‪Lake Biwa Rowing Song 琵琶湖周航の歌 英語版

Lake Biwa Rowing Song children’s choir rehearsal

Yoshibue Day Concert 「よし笛の日」定期演奏会

 

‪Shiga/Omi Brand

All About Lake Biwa 琵琶湖博物館・固有種

Koka Ninja House, Shiga, Japan 甲賀流 忍術屋敷

‪Shiga Prefecture Food and Crafts Fair, Tokyo 第26回 琵琶湖夢街道大近江展

Treasures of Konan, Shiga Prefecture 滋賀県湖南市の宝物

Shiga Governor Yukiko Kada teaches the Goshu Ondo dance

Kita-Biwako Steam Locomotive train 北琵琶湖SL

 

‪Sports in Shiga

‪2011 FISA World Rowing Tour at Lake Biwa, Japan

3rd Imazu Regatta 今津レガッタ

Imazu Jr. High School Rowing Club on Lake Biwa 今津中学校ボート部 琵琶湖周航

Maibara Basho Sumo Exhibition Tournament 2008 大相撲 米原場所

Pharrell Williams HAPPY – From Lake Biwa

Video link: http://youtu.be/FKchoOLG2TY

Pharrell Williams scored a huge hit with his song Happy last autumn. It has since become a worldwide phenomenon with people in cities around the world making street dance videos with the song. Pretty amazing.

The videos show a good bit of the respective locality along with some great dancers. The vids were inspired by Pharrell’s own music video which is the world’s first 24-hour music video with Happy played repeatedly for 24 hours. Fortunately, we can pause and resume the video at will.

I’m not one who usually gets on a faddish bandwagon, but I immediately recognized Happy’s PR potential for local destinations. So I hopped aboard by making this Shiga matsuri version of Happy. (Video embedded above or click on the video link.) Matsuri is Japan’s most common and colorful way to express happiness in public. Many matsuri also includes dancing and happy motions. A great match for the Happy song.

I’ve always wanted to make a compilation of my Shiga matsuri videos and this is a great way to do it. Shiga has so many matsuri that I ended up making the video with the song repeated four times. Even then, I still couldn’t fit all my Shiga matsuri videos. A few are missing. Most of the footage have already appeared in my other videos already on online, but a few clips are online for the first time like the Otsu Matsuri shot in Oct. 2013.

After watching this video, you may want to see the full version of the video clips in HAPPY from Lake Biwa, Japan. I provide the video links below in the order of appearance in the video:

  1. Lake Biwa Museum aquarium
  2. Yuru-kyara Mascot Character Festival
  3. Hiko-nyan mascot
  4. Lake Biwa Museum workshop for kids
  5. Ayu sweetfish at Shiga Food and Craft Fair
  6. Yokozuna Hakuho in Maibara
  7. New Year’s at Taga Taisha Shrine
  8. Katsube Shrine Fire Festival
  9. Taga Taisha Setsubun Festival
  10. Sagicho Matsuri
  11. Tsuchiyama Saio Princess Procession
  12. Sanno-sai
  13. Minakuchi Hikiyama Matsuri
  14. Kaizu Rikishi Matsuri
  15. Inside Hikone Castle (“very cool”)
  1. Yanana at Yuru-kyara Mascot Character Festival
  2. Nagahama Hikiyama Matsuri
  3. Hachiman Matsuri
  4. Sakata Shinmeigu Yakko-furi
  5. Aburahi Matsuri Yakko-furi
  6. Kenketo Matsuri Dance, Koka
  7. Kenketo Matsuri, Ryuo
  8. Hino Matsuri
  9. Nyu Chawan Matsuri
  10. Iba-no-saka-kudashi Matsuri
  11. Shichikawa Matsuri
  12. Painting “yorokobu” (喜) kanji meaning “happy” on Yokaichi giant kite.
  1. Naginata Odori
  2. Omizo Matsuri
  3. Hyozu Matsuri
  4. Sushi-Cutting Festival
  5. Higashi-Omi Giant Kite Festival
  6. Yuki Saiden Rice-Planting Festival
  7. Biwako Shuko no Uta song monument
  8. Rowing on Lake Biwa, Imazu
  9. Rowing on Lake Biwa, Hikone
  10. Yokaichi Shotoku Matsuri
  11. Taga Taisha Lantern Festival
  12. Otsu Summer Festival Fireworks
  13. Imazu Jr. High Rowing Club on Lake Biwa
  14. Kyoto University Rowing Club on Lake Biwa
  15. Hinade Shrine Sumo Odori
  1. Suijo Hachiman Taiko Odori
  2. Ibuki-yama Taiko Odori
  3. Asahi Honen Taiko Odori (Coming soon)
  4. Maibara Hikiyama Matsuri
  5. Otsu Matsuri (Coming soon)
  6. Yuru-kyara Mascot Gathering with singer Hashi Yukio (No other video)
  7. Hikone Castle Festival
  8. Omi Jingu Yabusame Horseback Archery (Video coming soon)
  9. Koka Ninja House
  10. Koka Ninja Village
  11. Takatora Summit in Kora
  12. Hikone Castle Tourist Ambassador
  13. Hikone Castle
  14. Otsu Tourist Ambassador
  15. Maibara Hikiyama Matsuri

Spring 2014 in Shiga

Tahoto

Sakura and Tahoto pagoda at Ishiyama-dera, Otsu.

Updated April 23, 2014

On April 1, 2014, Japan’s consumption tax increased from 5% to 8%. This means almost everything will cost slightly more, including train fares, souvenirs (some souvenirs will be priced the same as shops absorb the extra tax), food, hotel, etc. What’s going to be weird are the train fares. Pay for a train ticket in cash, and you most likely will be paying more than necessary since they will round off the amount to the nearest 10 yen. Use an “IC” smart card (tap card) like ICOCA instead. We saw a shopping frenzy during the last few weeks and days until March 31, 2014 when the tax was still 5%. We’ll get used to the 8% soon enough.

Cherry blossoms are starting to bloom. Otsu should reach full bloom by the end of this week. Cherries along the Lake Biwa Canal will be lit up from 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm until April 13. Hikone started to bloom on April 2, three days later than last year. Full bloom is expected a week later. See the Weather News sakura channel for the current sakura status in Shiga. Pink means almost full bloom and red means full bloom.

I also have a Top 5 List of Shiga best cherry blossom spots. Also another photo article about sakura in Shiga here.

Minami Sanno

Minami Sanno Matsuri on April 4 at Hieda Jinja Shrine in Hino.

Following cherry blossoms are matsuri or spring festivals. See my Top 10 list of April-May festivals in Shiga Prefecture here. The festival dates are the same every year except for the Higashi-Omi Giant Kite Festival held on the last Sunday of May. Golden Week is also full of matsuri and I have a list of Golden Week festivals in Shiga here.

Other notable Spring 2014 events:

  • Buddhist art fans should know that the Koto Sanzan Temple Trio (Saimyoji, Kongorinji, and Hyakusaiji) is now having a special display of their “hidden” Buddha statues (湖東三山本尊 特別公開). For the first time in eight years, the Kannon statues are being shown to the public from April 4 to June 1, 2014.
  • Hikone Byobu folding screen (彦根屏風), a National Treasure, is on display until May 7, 2014 at the Hikone Castle Museum is next to the ticket booth to enter Hikone Castle. Open 8:30 am to 5 pm (enter by 4:30 pm). Admission is 500 yen for adults (cheaper if you also buy a ticket to enter Hikone Castle). Details about the byobu hereGoogle Map
  • If you’re in Tokyo in April, note that there is a rare Buddhist art exhibition at The University Art Museum, Tokyo University of the Arts (Geidai) displaying 18 Kannon statues from Nagahama. Three of the Kannon statues are Important Cultural Properties. The statues were removed from their respective temples and carefully packed and transported to Tokyo from Nagahama. The show runs until April 13, 2014. Blog post here.  Official Web site.
  • A giant balloon (photo) in the shape of Minakuchi-Okayama Castle will be mounted atop Mt. Okayama (Kojo-san 古城山) in Minakuchi, Koka for 4 days from Apr. 17, 2014 coinciding with the Minakuchi Hikiyama Matsuri float festival. It will be inflated from 10 am to 9 pm and lit up at night. The balloon will be 11 meters high. Minakuchi-Okayama Castle was originally built in 1585 by Nakamura Kazuuji 中村一氏, a vassal of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. It fell into ruin after the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600 where the castle lord lost. Since there are few historical records of the castle, its exact appearance is unknown.

Have a happy spring!

March festivals in Shiga Prefecture

Two outstanding festivals in March in Shiga.

Sagicho

Sagicho floats’ friendly clash.

March 15-16, 2014
Sagicho Matsuri Festival, 左義長まつり, Omi-Hachiman Google Map

One of Shiga’s must-see festivals. The annual Sagicho Matsuri is a dramatic parade and clashing of 13 colorful Sagicho floats carried around the old streets of the city and in Himure Hachimangu Shrine near Hachiman-bori Canal. On the first day (Sat.), the floats are paraded along the streets near the shrine and undergo judging for best design. The floats are works of art with a motif based on the year’s Oriental zodiac. Since it is the Year of the Horse, be prepared to see all kinds of dramatic horses on the floats. What’s incredible is that the float decorations are all made of edible materials mounted on a straw and wood base. The floats are thus different every year.

Sagicho Matsuri

Sagicho Matsuri climax.

The second day (Sun.) of the Sagicho Festival is the climax. During the day, the Sagicho floats collide with each other and try to topple each other. Then at night, the floats are set afire. Sagicho is actually a fire festival. If you plan to see it at night, be sure to dress warmly. It can get quite cold.

Here’s a rough schedule of events at the Sagicho Festival this year (official festival site here):

March 15, 2014
1 pm: Gathering of 13 Sagicho floats at Himure Hachimangu Shrine. Floats are also judged here.
2 pm: A procession of Sagicho floats leave Himure Hachimangu Shrine and parade around nearby streets.
3 pm: Taiko performance at Hachiman Jr. High School.
5:30 pm: Sagicho floats return to Himure Hachimangu Shrine where an awards ceremony will be held.

March 16, 2014
10:30 am: Sagicho floats start parading around the streets.
2 pm to 5 pm: Sagicho floats gather and clash in front of Himure Hachimangu Shrine.
6 pm: Children’s Sagicho floats are set afire in front of Himure Hachimangu Shrine as other floats converge in front of the shrine.
8 pm to 10:40 pm: Five Sagicho floats are set afire at the same time, then the others are lit one by one in front of Himure Hachimangu Shrine.

This pdf shows the floats’ procession route. Also see more photos and my video on YouTube.

Saio princess

Saio princess amid tea fields.

March 23, 2014
Tsuchiyama Saio Princess Procession あいの土山斎王群行, Tsuchiyama, Koka

If you like kimono, you gotta see this festival. It’s a small, but very elegant and colorful matsuri in Koka’s Tsuchiyama area. The Saio princess dressed in a beautiful, juni-hitoe, 12-layer kimono will be carried in a palanquin escorted by a bevy of women in kimono. They also dance along the procession route (map below). This is actually an extension of Kyoto’s famous Aoi Matsuri.

The Saio princess was an unmarried, young Imperial princess, often the Emperor’s daughter, who was appointed (by divination) to be the High Priestess of Ise Grand Shrines in Mie Prefecture from the 7th to 14th centuries. For about 660 years, over 60 Saio princesses served at Ise Grand Shrines. The new Saio princess traveled from Kyoto to her Saiku palace near the Ise Shrine. The journey took 5 nights and 6 days, and passed through Tsuchiyama in Shiga Prefecture. Held on the last Sunday in March, this festival reenacts the Saio Gunko procession in Tsuchiyama to Tarumi Tongu which was one of the five palaces where the Saio lodged along the way. The Saio princess is selected among volunteer women from Koka.

Saio princess

Dance performance

The festival starts at 11:30 am with the Saio princess carried on a palanquin arriving at a small park called Yume no Ogawa next to Ono Elementary School. She purifies herself at a small stream in the park. Then they gather inside the school gym for the Departure ceremony.

The procession will depart the school at 1:30 pm and proceed on foot on the old Tokaido Road to Tarumi Tongu (垂水頓宮). Tongu means temporary palace. There were five of them for the Saio princess between Kyoto and the Saiku palace in Ise. The one in Tsuchyama is a National Historic Site, although nothing remains of the palace. From 886 to 1264 (378 years), a total of 31 Saio princesses lodged at Tarumi Tongu.

The procession will stop and dance at 2 pm at Ichiba Kumin Hiroba square (市場区民広場) and at 2:40 pm at Maeno Community West Hiroba Square (前野集会所西広場). Great photo ops at these two stops. The procession will arrive Tarumi Tongu at 3:40 pm where a short ceremony will be held. The festival ends at 4 pm. YouTube video | Official Website

Getting there: Take the “Aikuru” bus from Kibukawa Station (JR Kusatsu Line and Ohmi Railways). In about 30 min., get off at Ono Higashi-guchi (大野東口) and walk to Ono Primary School nearby. Buses leave at 10:05 am, 11 am, and 12:05 pm. Bus schedule in Japanese here.

*In the case of rain, the festival will be held inside the school gym.

Map of the procession route.

View あいの土山斎王群行 in a larger map

Official Website

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