Jul 14, 2018

Natsu Matsuri Basics (at least in Niigata)

I'm sure that every town does its natsu matsuri ("summer festival") a bit differently, but I figured I would share how my town does it, since there's bound to be enough overlap to give you at least a general understanding of how these things work.  I certainly didn't have it today, which made for some interesting circumstances.

I'm focusing on the mikoshi-carrying part of the festival, since that's the one that will be bound to come across your door at some point if you live in a small town like we do.

So for our town, the summer festival is split into two days: the less formal Saturday festival, and the more formal Sunday festival.  Saturday is the day for children and various committees to go out and carry mikoshi around neighborhoods.  For our town, the chant is "Wasshoi *Pi Pi*" (with the *pi* sound being made with whistles and drum beats).  For the children's mikoshi, anyone can join to hold the rope that's attached to the mikoshi, but only certain people can hold the wooden handles.  

It looks something like this:

Natsu Matsuri Basics (at least in Niigata) photo

Everyone congregates at a certain area and then when folks are set, the mikoshi is lifted, and with a loud, "Wasshoi!" everyone starts the march. 

The Mikoshi is carried around the neighborhood, only stopping when someone comes out to make a donation in an envelope.  One person at the front of the procession carries a donation box, and when the donation is made, he/she stops the march, announces the name of the individual providing the donation, and then everyone lifts the mikoshi in unison several times while shouting, "Wasshoi!  Wasshoi!  Wasshoi!"

When that's done, the procession starts once again, and the process is repeated with each new donation.

For our festival, the first Mikoshi to come through was the children's procession, followed by the town's young men's club.  I was told that we should expect more into the evening.

Tomorrow is when the formal mikoshi from the local shrine will be carried through with local priests.  I wrote an earlier blog about the restrictions incumbent with that particular mikoshi, so it will likely be a much less boisterous event than what we were able to enjoy today.

Does your local town do a natsu matsuri?  How different are the traditions there from what I just described above?  I'd love to hear how different places do things--feel free to use the comments section below!



Hitting the books once again as a Ph.D. student in Niigata Prefecture. Although I've lived in Japan many years, life as a student in this country is a first.

Blessed Dad. Lucky Husband. Happy Gaijin (most of the time).