Friday, October 8, 2010

Mozu Hachiman Futon-Daiko Festival

Today's post is about a fairly large festival that takes place each year in the town of Sakai, which is about 45 minutes south of Osaka. I have to be honest that I was pretty confused and it took a bunch of time to research (in Japanese) what I had seen so that I could understand it. It makes me VERY happy that I can now do (basic) google searches using Japanese characters and language!

First off, like one of the other festivals I attended here in Osaka, this one had a full carnival-style atmosphere including all the required food and entertainment booths. I think the most popular booth type were the ones selling cucumbers on a stick. I guess it has a low barrier to entry since all you need is a bag of cucumbers and some sticks. A couple of the Japanese websites that I came across were making fun of them too. They also had some kids' booths with this festival's twist on the scoop-up-the-fish-with-a-paper-net game involving small crabs instead of gold fish:

The crabs didn't have dangerous claws and the kids really seemed to like scooping them up. At another booth they had very small turtles. I'm not sure what was going on but it didn't seem to be the scoop-up-fish game that the other booths had. Regardless, it was pretty fun to watch the cute little turtles swim around:

Okay, let me see if I can explain this one. The festival is called the Mozu Hachiman Futon-Daiko Festival. Mozu is the area where the shrine is located. It's a relatively famous area due to the Kofun that are nearby. Hachiman is the name of the shrine where the festival takes place. You may already know that a futon is a type of bed that is widely used in Japan. It's basically like a stuffed sleeping bag and I find them super comfortable. The funny thing is that people hang them outside during the day to air out so you'll see them on balconies all over Japan. Finally, a Daiko is a type of drum. So, in summary, the festival is the Mozu (neighborhood) Hachiman (shrine) Futon (bed) Daiko (drum) Festival.

In the photo below, you can see one of the "floats" that are used in the festival. The red basket-looking thing is actually five futons piled on top of each other. They are then heavily decorated with various tassels, ropes, and other things. A couple of people ride on top of the futons during the festival. Under the futons is the section that holds the drum and drummers. The bottom is made up of the wood frame and bamboo handles that are used to carry the float.

This is a close up of center section of the float. You can see the intricate wood carvings as well as the chanter-drummer boys who ride inside the float. These costumed boys are in the sixth grade and they are responsible for leading the chanting and keeping the rhythm by beating the large drum, which you can't see, in the center.

There are many different groups that make floats and come to the festival. The groups carry their floats from the surrounding neighborhood into the shrine area. Here's one group entering the shrine grounds:

The festival is basically a fall harvest celebration where the groups are praying for a good harvest. The floats are portable shrines, which are about 12 feet tall (4 meters) and weigh about two-and-a-half tons. They are carried by a team of approximately 60-to-70 people.

Here you can see half of the team that is carrying this float. You can't really tell from the photo but these guys ARE working! Each person needs to carry over 100 pounds (50kg) back and forth through the shine grounds.

The physical activity of carrying the floats is meant to simulate a boat riding in rough waters. The people who are carrying the float make the float go up and down as a boat would do in rough water while participating in a call-and-response style of chanting. In this photo the float is at the other end of the shrine grounds and is headed back towards where I'm standing.

Since photos and my description can only do so much, here's a short video that I shot using my point-and-shoot:

Going to this festival was one of the more interesting that I've been to in Japan. I haven't seen anything like it anywhere else that I've been. It makes me wonder just how many different local festivals there are in the world and how I can get to see them one day...

Thanks to:
and: The Japan Blog Matsuri


  1. g'day darren, thanks for submitting this article to the japan blog matsuri. what a unique festival and cool article! right on theme.

    i wonder what the significance of the five-layered futon float is? maybe it is such hard work carrying the float that the float-bearers need easy access to bedding to crash on after the festival. :-)

  2. Thanks Reesan! I'm glad you liked it!

  3. Interesting festival, I would like to see it too. That's true there is a lot of useful things in Google Japan and Wikipedia Japan to feed (English/French) articles :)

  4. Futon Daiko and Danjiri festivals are basically Harvest festival, to give thanks for a good crop.


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