On the weekend of September 15th, myself along with a pair of Mikes headed over to Kishiwada 岸和田 for the annual Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri 岸和田だんじり祭 (float festival).
Although technically in Osaka 大阪, Kishiwada over 30km away from the city center with a population of over 200000 it’s hardly inaka.
We were lead on the days adventures by the ever hospitable and informative Tsuji-san, who is a local resident of Kishiwada.
It has been recorded that the Danjiri Matsuri began in 1703 the 16th year of the Genroku era. Started by the Daimyo of Kishiwada, Okabe Nagayasu, when he prayed to Shinto gods at Fushimi Inari Taisha 伏見稲荷大社 (my favourite place in all of Japan) for a plentiful harvest.
To summarize what exactly occurs on the weekend of the matsuri, each district of the city pulls their respective danjiri 檀尻 (portable shrine) through the streets of the town.
Consisting of anywhere from 200-1200 families each district has its own danjiri and alongside this a unique uniform that displays the name of the neighborhood, and the danjiri’s symbol.
They are accompanied by a kumi 組 (Pulling team) who pull the cart (which I was told weigh around 4-4.5 tons) via one of two long ropes that are attached to the front of the danjiri, whilst yelling their respective kakegoe 掛け声 (a chant to encourage activity).
Meanwhile the seinen-dan 青年團 (Young man group) on board the danjiri beat taiko 太鼓 (Japanese drums) kane 鐘 (Japanese bells).
Fueled by a plethora of onigiri お握り (rice balls) and Asahi beer the seinen-dan pull the danjiri round corners at frightful speeds. In fact each team try’s their best to out do each other in how fast they can maneuver a corner!
To add to the spectacle trailing the danjiri is a grand entourage of chanting spectators, made up of members of the local community from children to elderly.
Comically there is also a guy called the daiku-gata 大工方 (cartwright) who ‘surfs’ on the roof of each danjiri riding each corner as if its a giant 4 ton skateboard! Traditionally this role is reserved for the carver of the danjiri but these days it’s often a young man from the community, who can dance around the roof of danjiri, wave around his fans yet still maintain balance!
Also to add a scary note to things, I was told around 40 men have died participating in the Danjiri matsuri in the past 100 years, and unsurprisingly it is one of the most dangerous matsuri in Japan.
During the rest of the year the danjiri is kept in storage in one of these large gararges. As the matsuri draws near, the danjiri decorated each year with elaborate flower arrangements, prayer cards and ornaments by members of the local community,
Of course amongst all this Danjiri Matsuri has all the regualr fanfare of a typical summer matsuri, food stalls selling dishes such as takoyaki 蛸焼, baby castella ベビカステラ, kakigoroi かき氷, wataame 綿飴 and aisu kyuuri 氷胡瓜. We picked up some delicious Chinese Xiao Long, aisu kyuuri and chocolate coated bananas ^_^
Also along side the food there was also a range of vendors peddling Japanese carnival games for children and we are of course all just big kids!