Saturday, March 17, 2018

Sagicho Matsuri


Sagicho Matsuri of Omi-Hachiman city is an annual festival that is held in around Himure Hachimangu Shrine near Omi-Hachiman station in Shiga prefecture. The station is about 30 minutes from Kyoto and it takes about 30 minutes to walk to the shrine (but there is also bus service from the station to the shrine area). The shrine itself has a long history, as far back as the year 275 (6th year of Emperor Gozaimi) with dedication of a shrine to the deity of Okuninushi (the god of nation founding, farming, business, medicine, the spirit world, etc. ...).

The event spans two days (in 2018 the event covers the weekend of March 17-18th). The first day is for the dashi (parade floats) to be carried through the streets near the shrine. The second day features an event where the dashi clash (similar to the Nada Kenka event near Himeji) then the decorative elements of the dashi are burned as part of the bonfire part of the festival.

"Sagicho" generally refers to the bonfire ritual in which the gate decorations are burnt. This ceremony typically took place after New Year's but the tradition has changed over a time with different stages of transition as communities vied against each other for more extravagant displays.
This ceremony was known to take place in the Sengoku ("Warring States"/Japanese civil war period around 1600) when the famous warlord, Oda Nobunaga (a great patron of arts) was known to personally put on makeup and perform a dance.

The decorated dashi of the festival are notable in that they represent the zodiac animal of the year, juunishi (十二支). These zodiac animals are a popular decoration for Shinto shrines, you often see ema (votive plates, 絵馬) with the animal of the current year being sold to visitors who write their prayers and wishes then hang them up on a special rack at the shrine.

The juunishi elements of the floats are painstakingly created over the course of a year by artists using paper and foam, but more interestingly, agricultural products; grasses, grains and fish skin. This style of decorating a float is similar to the "Zuiki" festival from Kitano Tenmangu shrine in Kyoto.
The workshop where these floats are made is open to visitors are part of the volunteer led sightseeing groups around Omi-Hachiman (about 2000 yen for up to 20 people).

The dashi of Sagicho Matsuri (or "the Sagicho Festival") are also decorated with paper strips (red in honor of the bonfire ceremony and white as symbolic Shinto purification), there are decorations that relate to traditional culture (such as bags which reprsent genkan/entryway talismans).
The decorations also include a number of references to traditional Japanese games; there were dice (perhaps referring to the game "sugoroku" or some gambling games), a piece for shogi (Japanese chess) and a card for hanafuda (a Japanese card game).

The dashi are about 6 meters talls.

Note the elaborate patterns of the wooden box here; this large piece if made to look like a box made using the yosegi method, which involves cutting and gluing many small pieces of wood.

Looking at the backside of this float you can see the open parts of the tsuba (sword hand-guard plate).

There are protective scaffolds to protect the torii gate at the dashi passes through.

Several of the floats each year use a tsuba a backing for the juunishi animal.

A smaller kids' dashi.
I like how the dog on the float lines up with the komainu statue.
Note the bamboo protectors that are arranged around the statue.

The dashi are brought to the shrine entrance and the people carrying the dance make different types of maneuvers.

A lotus background?

Various Sailor Moon characters are carrying this dashi.

Sailor Venus uniform with Chibi-Moon hair; this would receive a lot of criticism at Nipponbashi Street Festa.

This team has the blue and pink hair.

A cute display. Using corn kernels for the background?

Like a fusion of the Joker and Harley Quinn.

Pineapple hair?

Sailor Moon P.S.A.: Look what smoking has done to Sailor Neptune!

Wearing festival masks.

Aww, look at her face looking up in admiration at... her bearded/pierced dad in a Sailor Jupiter costume?

Another shot of the yosegi design.

This stone lantern looks like Toad/Kinopio from the Mario games.

A Tenjin shrine; note the plum lantern, plum tree and bronze bull (nade ushi).

Fish for decoration.

Azuchi Castle (one station away) with the Oda crest.

This float took some damage; the black rim of the tsuba broke, the foam dog leg is bent and the dog's nose broke off...

... so a quick thinking person put a mask over the dogs face.