The annual grand festival of Matsubara Shrine and Yukawa Shrine in Ito City, held every October. It is said to have originated during the Muromachi period.
The mikoshi, spelled with the characters for “divine palanquin,” represents the gods themselves.
The selection of carriers is determined a few days before the festival, where the elder members of the district read out numbers or words, and those who hold the corresponding lottery tickets have the privilege to carry the mikoshi. (Video 0:10)
The words read out include expressions symbolizing abundant harvest or four-character idioms representing peace.
Although the number of carriers has decreased in recent times, being able to carry the mikoshi is considered an honorable act. In the past, it was highly valued to the extent that fishermen who won the lottery would ask others to give up their rights to carry it.
On the day of the festival, although not shown in the video, there is a ritual called “Mitama-ire” where the gods in the shrine are invited to reside in the mikoshi.
The weight of the mikoshi is one ton and it is carried by 32 people.
As it represents a god, if viewed from a higher position like a second-floor window, it is considered disrespectful.
After parading through the district, they enter the sea.
Entering the sea is rare in Japan, and the mikoshi is also unusual as it doesn’t involve loud cheering like in other regions. They do not speak at all but use a mouthpiece. According to the owner of a dried fish shop, it used to be done when fishermen’s boats returned, but nowadays, there are fewer people who can carry the mikoshi on weekdays, so it usually takes place on the weekends in October.
According to the same owner of the dried fish shop, in the beginning, they wore ceremonial hakama and only walked near the shore, but gradually they started going further offshore. As a result, there were incidents of people wearing hakama drowning, so they switched to white attire.
As the original shrines were located at the border between the Yukawa and Matsubara districts, the climax of the festival involves rotating the mikoshi at the boundary between the two areas. (From video 2:08)
In the evening, the “Sanyare Festival” takes place where over 20 floats gather in one location. It is a traditional autumn event in the streets of Ito.