Takayama is not unusual in that it has big festivals, or even that it has them twice a year. But they are known for the parade floats at their festivals. The festivals date way way back – one in the spring before the crops are planted, one in the fall after the harvest. 350,000 people come to see the events, which is more than the population of the city. They have a museum where some of the floats are on display, so we went for a look see. And we were amazed!
There are 23 floats – some for spring, some for fall. They are over 300 years old, they are huge and I would say that they are priceless, but they are in fact valued in the millions of dollars, each one. They are all considered to be national treasures.
At any given time there are three floats in the museum, along with an immense portable shrine.
The floats have wheels, and are pulled by ropes through the streets. There is a night procession through the old town with the floats decked with lanterns. The upper level of each float can be lowered down into the red curtained area.
The painting, carving and gilding on each structure is astonishing.When they are not in the museum the floats live in shed like barns in the old part of town – here’s a link to a picture: Float Barn – we saw them as we walked through town. And more pictures here: Takayama festival
The shrine, below, weighs several tons (the bottom part is cast iron). It is no longer carried through town – they need 80 people of the same height to carry it (two teams of 40, 10 men to a pole) and can’t raise such a group any more. Each float has its club that wheels it through town and is associated with it.
We came out of the museum in front of the main shrine for the city – just in time for a wedding party to be passing by!
There were also flocks of children in traditional dress. In November there is the 7-5-3 festival for children. Three and five year old boys and three and seven year old girls are brought to the shrine for blessings of those auspicious ages. They are dressed in formal traditional wear. Their parents and grandparents may or may not be in traditional wear. It is an occasion of much picture taking. The festival date is November 15, but lots of people were getting a head start today:
this little lady was all about posing for pictures – her brother, not so much!
And then, just as we were about head out – another wedding party:
In this procession there was the attendant, the father of the bride in western style formal wear, the bride in her mother in full Japanese regalia (note the mother’s very formal black kimono with family crests) followed by members of the bride’s party in a mix of Japanese and western formal wear. They were greeted by the entrance to the office by the groom’s party:
In the first wedding party the bride and groom walked together, followed by relatives and greeted a group by the door. We never did figure out all the details – was this the wedding ceremony? Why not in the main shrine - was there a service? why were the wedding parties and the children and their families all going in the same door, but only the kids and families coming back out? Were the wedding people going out another entrance (there was one) or was there another room for a reception in there? They came by hired bus, which was still in the parking lot. So many questions…..
Fortunately all this happened before the big rain came!