Shitara-Town Shimizu Chochin Lantern Festival
Date : 06/30/2023
This is a kind of Gion Matsuri festival said to be modeled after the utterly famous lanterns of the Tsushima Tenno Festival, in the city of Tsushima. For ages, festivals using the chochin paper lanterns have been a tradition around the eastern Aichi Prefecture area deep within the mountains known as the Okumikawa area. However, not all of them have been transmitted down for generations with so much passion as this.
It is said that even during the time when plague struck Japan and the village was reduced to just three households, the people there insisted on carrying out the ceremonies. The very continuity of this event is said to be thanks to the ancient prayers wishing for it to endure through the ages.
The festivity is held annually on June 30th. The yatai-kumi, a wheeled cart resembling a mini-float, gets decorated with bamboo foliage and the 240 lanterns which are lit with the sacred flame given at the ceremony in the Shimizu Tsushima Shrine. Then the yatai is pushed around the streets while the people play flutes and drums. At the end of the procession, people will rush to get a branch of bamboo and a lantern to take home and decorate the household entrance, which is believed to ward off any ailment during the summer. The sight of the lanterns in the yatai next to the other 150 lanterns decorating the shrine is particularly beautiful.
Compared to most of the lively festivals of Japan, this is a frugal and rather quiet event. However, the lit-up lanterns hanging from the bamboo branches and the vibrant nature surrounding the village make for a beautiful and rather surreal spectacle.