Kanuma Imamiya Shrine Festival - one of the leading festivals in Japan since the Edo Period
UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage
Kanuma is located 100 kilometers to the north of Tokyo. Formerly an important post station between Edo (present Tokyo) and Nikko, the city shares the same cultural area. Among many festivals in Kanuma where you can catch hearts and daily lives of Japanese people, the biggest is Kanuma Imamiya Shrine Festival held on the second Saturday and Sunday of every October. The festival has been recognized as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage and features 27 Yatai (floats) intricately carved on all sides. This scale ranks it as one of the leading festivals in Japan.
The Mount Nantai god is consecrated at Imamiya Shrine. Many people have gathered there to worship the Kanuma Juku Ujigami (gods) since the Edo Period (1603-1867). Now, something from over 400 years ago, people in Kanuma were hit hard by drought conditions which became very severe. They prayed at the shrine so that they could raise their crops, and a heavy thunderstorm came to Kanuma. The feelings of gratitude to the gods were the origin of Kanuma Imamiya Shrine Festival.
The first day of the festival is a chance to see the Japanese traditions called Kurikomi (the procession of floats into the shrine) and Kuridashi (floats leaving out of the shrine). All floats are carried to the shrine, and the bands play as an offering. The worshippers then express their gratitude and reverence to the Imamiya gods for the safety of the previous year. With lanterns lighting, floats are taken back to their respective communities from the shrine.
Buttsuke, a Japanese music band competition, is one of the highlights of the festival. Floats are carried around town during the festival, and when two or more meet at intersections, the musicians of each float compete with their own music and rhythm.
On the second day of the festival, festival participants feel a lot pride as the carved floats are introduced in the parade. The festival is overflowing with spectators, marching bands, dancers, and more.
Due to traffic restrictions, all vehicles are inaccessible to the central area of the festival. Visitors are encouraged to park at the official parking area.