May 14th – May 18th, 2015
Centre of Komatsu City, Japan
Japanese festivals are known for their fervent festive spirit and the Otabi Matsuri is the one such festival famous for its magnificent Hikiyama (portable shrines) and the wonderful Kabuki performances by the Children. It is held in mid May and is a four day affair in Komatsu City of the Ishikawa Prefecture.
It has a history of 340 years and the word Otabi literally means “A God’s tour”. The festival is said to have begun in the Meiwa period (1766) when portable shrines were carried through the streets to celebrate the building of the Ubashi and Motori-Hiyoshi shrines by Toshitsune Maeda.
Earlier in the Meiwa period (1766) there were 10 Hikiyamas till the end of feudalism. But now out of the 10 only 8 of them are carefully preserved. The portable shrine makes a tour around the Komatsu city downtown where the Hikiyama are displayed.
On the day of the festival, upon the break of dawn people clean their houses, decorate the entrance with fancy curtains and lanterns in order to welcome the god.
The streets are also decorated and have various food stalls and other small shops where you can take a stroll and enjoy some good Japanese street food.
The highlight of the festival of course is the Kabuki performances on the Hikiyama throughout the city. On each day of the festival, the beautifully decorated hikiyama are set up in the city and performances are held through the day. You can see the locals push the hikiyama through the town while children perform kabuki on top of them.
The floats come from eight different towns of the city, and are on display during the festival. The hikiyama make for a perfect mini outdoor stage, raised above the spectators. Even with bad weather, the elegant wooden roofs hanging over the stage protect the children from rain to make sure their performances are not hampered.
This Kabuki Performance are renowned all over Japan as it provides an opportunity for the kids to be one among the best 3 performers along with Musashi Chichibu and Omi Nagahama performances. It is especially popular when all the 8 Hikiyama come together and the children actors perform a fantastic act on the illuminated Hikiyama in the dark.
The otabi festival with the kabuki performances are known to establish a closer bond between children from all over Japan. It also gives them an opportunity to understand the local culture and customs in a better and easier way.
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