Danjiri Matsuri, Japan

Danjiri Matsuri, Japan

Danjiri Matsuri, Japan


Celebration Date
Mid September
Other Name
Holiday Type
Not National Holiday


Danjiri Matsuri are cart-pulling festivals held in Japan. The Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri is probably the most famous. There are other Danjiri Matsuri held in the City of Kobe and Haruki Town, but they are less popular and spectacular.

The highlight of the Festival is a race between floats representing different neighborhoods. The Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri first began in 1703 when the daimyo (feudal lord) of Kishiwada Castle, Okabe Nagayasu prayed to the Shinto gods for an abundant harvest at Fushimi Inari-taisha in Kyoto.

Typical of many fall festivals in Japan, the Danjiri Matsuri is essentially a harvest festival to pray for a good autumn bounty. The Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri features 35 elaborately hand-carved danjiri festival floats made by highly-skilled local carpenters and sculptors. Many of the floats weigh over 3000 kg and are pulled by an eager team of up to 1,000 participants. Each float represents a different district of the city with glory up for

stake as each team is vying for victory and the honour it will bring their neighbourhood.


Festival Preparation

Town guild members spend a considerable amount of time to prepare for the festival. Meetings and consecrations are held at shrines days before the festival. The carts themselves must be readied for pulling, as they are stored partly disassembled in warehouses. The carts are consecrated for the big event, and they are decorated in various ways. For decorations, flags, prayer cards, fresh flower arrangements, and in some cases even lanterns are used. The taiko ("drum") and Kane ("bell") used to play the town danjiri rhythm are loaded onto the cart, and the musicians selected to ride the danjiri practice for months in advance. The ages of the selected musicians can vary from old veterans of the festival to children as young as four years of age.


The Festival

The days of the festival vary from year to year and from town to town, although it is usually held in autumn, in late September or October. On the day's of the festival, members of the town guilds pull their danjiri through the streets of the town, wearing their guild happi coat and head-band.

The event is accompanied with the commotion of the participants pulling the cart, as they yell their kakegoe or signature shout, equivalent to the English "heave-ho!" Adding to the atmosphere is the danjiri rhythm played on drums and bells throughout the cart pulling, which can be heard from street blocks away. In towns with many guilds, the danjiri matsuri consists of various danjiri crisscrossing the streets at the same time. The festival usually ends in the danjiri gathering at an appointed place and having a religious ceremony. 




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