Hanamaki Festival

The 400-year-old Hanamaki Festival with its procession of glittering floats during fiery and fantastic nights

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The Hanamaki Festival is said to have its origins from over 400 years ago. From events such as the parade of opulent floats shining from the light of the flames to the deer dances, the festival is splendidly held thanks to the beauty of the traditional entertainment preserved by the people of the city.
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Annually in September for 3 days starting from the 2nd Friday.
5-33 Kamichō, Hanamaki-shi, Iwate-ken
(0198) 24-2111

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A traditional festival in tribute to the founders of the town of Hanamaki

The Hanamaki Festival is in honor to Nobuchika Kita who established Hanamaki at the end of the 16th century, and it is said to have begun with the citizenry building floats to be paraded around the town. Following Kita’s death, the festival was apparently held on the anniversary of his passing to complement the adoration that the citizens had for the man. There was once a time when there was a competition over which float was the tallest, but due to the electric wires strung over the town, height restrictions were imposed, and the focus of the festival was switched more to the elegance and beauty of the floats. The calm and elegant musical accompaniment that was derived from the music for Kyoto’s Gion Festival is soothing to the visitors’ hearts.

The 3 days of traditional entertainment that bespeaks of Hanamaki

It goes without saying that the elegant floats are a main part of the Hanamaki Festival, but visitors are also filled with the excitement of the festival all over town with the many performances of local folk entertainment from the old ages. Among these, what is truly amazing to watch is the Deer Dance. One of the local forms of entertainment to symbolize Iwate Prefecture, participants are covered from head to toe in costume including antlers as they bravely and jauntily dance while beating drums. The origins of the dance have various legends as one where this started as a memorial service to the deer that were killed by hunters, but it has ended up being passed down as a service to quell the spirits of the deer. During the 2nd day of the festival, there is a parade which includes about 200 performers in 20 performance groups dancing en masse for an incredible spectacle. Also, the three days are overflowing with tradition with the splendid kagura dances to pray for a bountiful harvest, the Hanamaki Bayashi Dance performed by women filled with emotion, and over 100 mikoshi (portable shrines) being energetically paraded through the streets.

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