Japan pre-visit Guide: A look into the city’s largest floating ‘Dashi’ festival

Festivals – they’re celebrated for generations and are usually treated as the grandest among all other daily occasions. The Dashi festival, also known as floats festival is well-respected among the city dwellers and considered to be spiritual which have been passed down from Edo to Meiji period till date. We traveled across the region in Japan to understand more and have since been inspired by the deeply-rooted passion.

Dashi festival also better known as Singapore’s ‘Chingay festival‘ involves the parade of beautifully coloured floats decked in different designs. Each of these float is usually dragged by almost 30-50 people and also come with a moving karakuri puppet.

Tatekawa sculpture museum

This is an extremely precious experience you had!‘ exclaimed my fan when i uploaded the photo on SNS. It was an underestimated effort – a really tough one to synchronize the music and pace with movements of the karakuri puppet and we had much joy fiddling across the strings.

Gold leaf is also hand-pasted on each parts of the float and each part like this will take a meticulous 3-hours to complete. The float is only taken out a day before the festival to ensure it is in good working conditions and will be reused yearly.

So how majestic are these dashi floats?


@ Inuyama Artifacts Museum (Donden-kan)

The dashi float is majestic in height, about 6metres tall and paraded down the old streets of the cities.


Each dashi float is usually well-taken care by their masters and we are moved by their pride and sincerity.















In Handa city, we visited a shrine and was warmly welcomed by a dashi master whom had a wealth of experience handling the Dashi festival.

It is important to note that the Dashi festival by “Yama, Hoko, Yatai” in Aichi prefecture was recently awarded a UNESCO cultural heritage, hence showing the importance of this occasion.

What makes this city special is that it uses ancient floats dated as far as 300years ago and they’re still very well-preserved. The wooden disc wheels which are used as support and movement for the floats are buried in the sand and then retrieved yearly. Preparations usually start as early as late January for the 1-day festival in May.

The Kanzaki Shrine is located opposite the stretch of beach and also faces the first bridge built to connect between towns/cities in Japan. The city’s Dashi festival goes onto the beach then the sea after parading on streets and draws crowds around the world yearly.

Handa City Museum

The city museum in Handa is a special place to visit. It isn’t another boring museum you’ll expect – it carried the history of Handa city dated back from the old past and made many interesting comparisons with the current. What remained same was the well-kept heritage of the Dashi float festival, which occurs only once in every 5 years.


Photo credits: Handa City

The next festival in Handa will be held on 07-08 October 2017 and since it is only held every 5 years, this makes it more unique to attend. It is also stunning to know that the last parade attracted more than 530,000 visitors – both locally and internationally. We saw the efforts of the promotional through large advertising across the city landscapes (as early as 10months ahead of preparation) and this is an honoured opportunity to learn about the Dashi festival.

As mentioned earlier, the Dashi festival is a spiritual festival. It is believed that by touching these poles at the side, it is easy to meet a good match for marriage. Because of that, crowds usually go uncontrolled and made the occasion more rowdy.

In the Handa city museum, you can also witness a life-scale dashi float that comes complete with karakuri puppet. Memorial shots or selfies are also achievable at this museum.

The Tsushima shrine is treated as one of the grandest shrine in Japan. It celebrates Tenno festival, which is also dashi floats on boats and the actual Dashi floats known as ‘Aki Matsuri’ along the streets. Many cultural festivals happen right at the Tsushima shrine and is treated as a national treasure. Dashi festival for Tsushima city is held yearly on 01-02April.

Make a pitstop at Takaoka Mikurumayama Museum on your way from Tokyo or from Gifu. The museum exhibits the cultural Dashi festival’s props and equipments and showcased some of the city’s best festivals. You can also find a life-size Dashi float here.

Takaoka Mikurumayama Museum

Suit up just like the paraders! Try some of these traditional costumes (including the one for year of the Rooster) at the Takaoka Mikurumayama Museum and redeem memorial shots after having fun with them.

dashi festival costumes

A++ team for us dressing up as those locals, ready to go on a Dashi parade. Ummm… Maybe few months later..!

Tips:

  • Handa city is just 30mins by express bus, located between Chubu Nagoya International Airport and Nagoya City. Make a stop in Handa to visit the city’s museum and Mizkan museum (the household brand of soy sauce and ponzu).
  • Different city organise Dashi festival during different periods of the year. The earliest begin in April at Inuyama and most of them happen yearly, except the one for Handa city that is only celebrated every 5 years.
  • Moving Karakuri puppets are widely accepted since 1603, the start of Edo period. They were previously used as entertainments for lords and merchants, then passed onto Dashi floats in Chubu areas.
  • There are about 200 Dashi floats with Karakuri puppets and about 2/3 of them are found in Chubu areas.
  • Due to its heavy craftman skills and the need to acquire scientific knowledge, Handa city has evolved into mechanical and aerospace hub popular for cars manufacturing and aircraft spare parts.
  • Many airlines operate flights to Nagoya, with Singapore Airlines as the only airline that fly direct from Singapore.
  • For more information about Dashi festival, visit go-centraljapan.jp

    Links:
    Handa City: handa-dashimatsuri.jp/
    Inuyama City: inuyama.gr.jp/
    Takaoka: takaoka.or.jp

    Sy is a guest of Handa city, Inuyama City and its partners.


    With so many modes and quick autofocus equipped on SONY A5100, it was easy to capture fast moving objects with just a click.

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