Sagicho Matsuri at Omi-Hachiman

Sagicho Matsuri at Omi-Hachiman. Click on image to see more Sagicho photos.

The Sagicho Matsuri (左義長まつり) in Omi-Hachiman, Shiga will be held on March 17-18, 2012. This is one of Shiga’s must-see festivals.

The annual Sagicho Matsuri is a dramatic parade and clashing of 13 or 14 colorful Sagicho floats carried around the old streets of the city and in Himure Hachimangu Shrine near Hachiman-bori Moat. 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 Dragon, be prepared to see all kinds of dramatic dragons 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.

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.

Float decoration with a boar’s mane made of tiny fish. You can smell the seafood.

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

March 17, 2012
1 pm: Gathering of Sagicho floats at Himure Hachimangu Shrine.
2 pm: A procession of Sagicho floats leave Himure Hachimangu Shrine and parade around nearby streets.
5:30 pm: Sagicho floats return to Himure Hachimangu Shrine.

March 18, 2012
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.
8 pm to 10:40 pm: Sagicho floats are set afire one by one in front of Himure Hachimangu Shrine.

Also see my video at YouTube. Google Map

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Shiga’s die-cut postcards

Omi-shonin merchant die-cut postcard issued in 2011.

If you’ve been to a post office in Shiga, you probably noticed those unique-shaped, die-cut postcards featuring one of Shiga’s symbols like the Shigaraki tanuki raccoon dog, Hikone Castle, and an Omi shonin merchant. The Japan Post Office has been issuing these charming postcards since 2009. One die-cut postcard per year has been issued for each prefecture. So each prefecture now has three die-cut postcards. Shiga’s die-cut cards issued so far are shown here. In Japanese, they call it gotochi form cards (ご当地フォルムカード).

Each prefecture’s die-cut cards are sold only in that prefecture’s post offices. Each card costs 180 yen and requires a 120 yen stamp for domestic mail. Some cards have sold out, but they will be reissued soon.

If you are a postcard collector like me, you may wonder what the other die-cut postcards in other prefectures look like. Well, there is a Web site where you can see the postcard designs for each prefecture. Just click on a prefecture to see the three cards so far. You can then see the prefecture’s unique symbols and attractions: http://postacollect.com/gotochi/index.html

Also read about Shiga’s postage stamps here.

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