From The What’s Up in Aichi Newsletter
The advent of spring and frenzy over hanami coincide with two Aichi festivals, both of which are nationally recognized cultural assets. The Handa Spring Festival takes place from late March to early May in one of ten different townships almost every weekend. Thirty-one “dashi” or handsomely decorated wooden floats that typically stand 30 feet tall and weigh 4 tons, are tugged by at least 35-40 people each. The atmosphere can get boisterous, as the dashi pick up speed and whip around street corners to the cheer of spectators. While only a few of the total 31 dashi are used on a given weekend, this is enough to cause a stir throughout the town. Lion dance performances and groups of children hoisting “mikoshi,” or portable shrines, add to the fun. Below are the dates and location of each township festival.
3/18 – 3/19 Okkawa
4/8 – 4/9 Yanabe Shinden
4/8 – 4/9 Yanabe
4/8 – 4/9 Kami Handa
4/15 – 4/16 Kyowa
4/15 – 4/16 Narawa
4/15 – 4/16 Nishi Narawa
4/15 – 4/16 Itayama
4/15 – 4/16 Shimo Handa
5/3 – 5/4 Kamezaki Shiohi
Once every five years, the Handa Dashi Festival makes a grand spectacle of showcasing all 31dashi at once. This momentous event is set for October 2007.
Handa City is located 40 minutes south of Nagoya and is accessible by both JR and Meitetsu lines.
The Inuyama Festival, more so than the Handa Spring Festival, is a stately procession of 13 impeccably preserved wooden floats called “yama” in the local dialect. These yama are typically larger and heavier than those used in Handa. Similar to the Handa, however, is the dramatic element of watching the incredibly heavy wooden floats, each weighing several tons, turn corners by sheer manpower. Each presents a “karakuri”, or mechanical puppet, show during the day, and at night are illuminated by 365 candles each (no bulbs or electricity involved).
This year’s Inuyama Festival takes place 4/1 – 4/2 While in town, stop by the Inuyama Castle. It is the oldest preserved castle in Japan, and one of only four castles to be designated a national treasure.
Inuyama City is accessible to Nagoya by Meitetsu railway in under 25 minutes.