The treasures of the Japanese autumn are many: in our last post we found out about the astounding natural beauty of leaves as they change from green through yellow to red. Today we are focusing more on the human aspect of fall, it being a great time for festivals in Japan! One of the most beautiful festivals is Takayama Festival, held on the 9th and 10th of October.

Takayama is found on the Honshu Island, in the middle of Japan. Surrounded by mountains, the Hida region giving home to Takayama, has always been a secluded place. However, its inhabitants have always known how to make the most of what they have: woods and cattle. In the Edo-period Takayaman woodwork and carpentry became famous for their high quality, and so did their cows for being an exceptionally good breed. So much so that soon the town was directly supervised by the shogun himself, and he made sure that the dwellers have everything they need, even in austere times. The old town of Takayama still looks pretty much as it did back in the time of the Tokugawa-shogunate. It is like one travelled in time when visiting the old town; in fact it has attracted visitors for 400 years now…

The Autumn Festival is really a religious holiday of the Hachiman Shrine; as they usually do during festivals, portable shrines are carried around the city for two days. The model versions of the shrines can be found in the Matsuri no Mori Museum, while the real ones are being prepared in hidden warehouses, waiting for their day to come. They also carry a mikoshi around during the time of the festival: it is the shrine, where the kami, the „patron spirit” of the town resides; it is also the only time of the year the kami visits the city…

Another highlight of the festival is the Karakuri Hono, the dance of the marionette figures on some of the portable shrines; their movements are so bold and lifelike that crowds gather around them to watch them dance! This little programme last 20 minutes and can be seen twice a day on both days of the Takayama Festival. On the first night of the festival the celebration goes on after sunset, too: the shrines are illuminated and carried around, while locals join the procession, wearing the traditonal clothes of the region.

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