Five ancient but gorgeous floats, whose wooden rollers are preserved by storing them buried in the beach!
Kamisaki Shrine, located at the district of Kamezaki (Handa-City) in the coastline road opposite to the beach where the climax of the festival happens, is the center of the ceremony. The Shiohi (Japanese for "low tide") Festival is traditionally held on May 4 and 5, with the first day used as "rehearsal." Preparations for the event start around three months before. First, there's the rehearsals by the puppet masters in charge of operating the floats' "Karakuri" mechanical dolls, and the musical instruments players. Then, by the end of March, groups of people inspect the routes by which the floats will be pushed through. In mid-March, another group will scavenge the beach in order to unbury the massively thick wooden discs that are used as the floats' wheels. Then the others parts of the dismantled floats are removed from their storage warehouses and assembled while being strictly inspected for integrity. Everything is ceremonial, involving priests, music, traditional garments, prayers, blessings and etc.
Many an important cultural heritage on display
The origins for this magnificent festival are unclear, with recent historical research found proof that it has been carried on for at least 300 years. However, some forms of celebrations are suspected to have taken place in the area since the 1500's, which made it to be designated as Important Intangible National Folk Cultural Heritage in 2006. Upon the catastrophic 1959 Ise Bay Typhoon, a massive concrete levee was built along the coast, stopping the festival from happening until 1993, when the artificial beach was completed and the festival once again started to be held in its full glory. In 1963, Aichi Prefecture appointed the floats as Important Tangible Cultural Assets, which motivated their full restoration. Although their appearance has much changed from their original forms, due to successive reforms, they still remain the original masterpieces of widely renowned Japanese artisans of old, in the form of the meticulously sculpted ornaments, luscious cloisonné columns finished in nacre, and the sumptuous gold-embroidered curtains.
The crowning moment of the festival: floats to the beach!
The floats are drawn from various parts of the city, each accompanied by a procession, to the Owari Sansha Shrine and Kamisaki Shrine, then gathered for blessings and dedications of the "Karakuri" dolls. However, despite all the above minute preparations, solemn ceremonies and majestic floats, they are but mere coadjutants compared to the festival climax "Hikioroshi," when the floats are pushed to the beach: armies of hundreds of men (as women are not allowed to participate), all wearing the traditional garments emblazoned with each respective guild's seal, push and pull the hefty carriages to the sea border using ropes or their bare hands, in a monumental display of force. Ropes extending from the sides of the floats are tensioned to avoid them from toppling on the soft ground. All while the musicians inside them keep on carrying the music. After their orderly alignment upon touching the water, the "Hikiage" starts in order to push them back to firm land. All this massive effort, with the music and the grand nature around the place makes this an utterly memorable experience.
Reduced Event Contents
• No spectators and closed to the public.
• Parking lots, rest areas, and information booths for visitors not instituted.
• No street stalls.