Tobata Gion Oyamakasa

I briefly wrote about the annual summer festival that’s held in our neighbourood called Tobata Gion Oyamakasa in a previous post or two. The festival commemorates a historical event about 200 years ago where the residents of Tobata were cured of a plague or somesuch epidemic disease. I’d do further research but that will have to wait until after I have some spare time. Here are the in-blog links: a photo from the 2004 festival and a brief mention in my Sugawara Jinja post

The festival involves residents of each of four neighbourhoods carrying large lantern floats. On the first night, all of the floats converge near the Tobata ward office, and race laps around the park. On the second night, each float gets paraded through its respective neighbourhood.

The other day’s drumming practice (second paragraph of my 18 July post) was—as Lia pointed out—in preparation for this big festival, which will happen this coming weekend. I’m not sure what happens on which day, but I’m sure someone has the information somewhere. There are posters up all over the neighbourhood but I’ve got enough information to keep track of in my head without trying to remember dates for festivals that will take place after I’ve left Japan. Usually the big gathering of floats is on the first night, with them dispersing to their respective neighbourhoods on the second night. Which, judging from the “road closed” signs up at our streetcorner, means that the local one is on the 24th. I’d infer from that that main festival is on Saturday the 23rd.

Regardless, if you’re in the Kitakyushu region this weekend, try to take in the festival. It’s breathtaking. Here are a few photos, selected from the 400-or-so I took over the course of two nights at the 2004 festival.

Here’s a view from the 4th floor of a nearby apartment building. It’s the home of two teachers we know.

twilight view of Tobata Gion Oyamakasa, from a nearby apartment building

A ground-level view. The lantern tower on the left is smaller because it’s being carried by youths. There are two sizes of float: large ones for the adult men, and a smaller one for the young ‘uns. The big floats are said to weigh 2.5 tons.

youth and adult floats at Tobata Gion Oyamakasa

A full-frame shot—the bearers are probably having a rest—showing the higashi (east) float in its full 12-level glory. The lanterns have candles inside, as well as at least two people. One guards against fire hazards, and the other plays the drum. There’s probably at least one guy playing cymbals as well.

a twelve-layer lantern float

And finally, after the show, don’t miss the food and game stalls. This is the view from the Tobihata Hachimangu shrine looking towards Nakahonmachi, Tobata’s shopping arcade district.

view from the Tobihata Hachimangu shrine looking towards Nakahonmachi

And before I forget, another preparation for the festival has the young men going from door-to-door carrying a big lion/dog/dragon head. Residents bow, and the men make the head “bite” the resident. It’s to ensure good health for the coming year. We got our health bite on Saturday morning. Lia got a picture of the guys, but posting it will have to wait.

One thought on “Tobata Gion Oyamakasa

  1. 「戸畑祇園お山かさ」って書くの?あの祭り聞いたことないけど、楽しそうな。

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