Kagoshima Matsuri: Festival Week #2

Continuing on with the theme of festivals from last issue, this week I have a couple more festivals to introduce. To catch you up, Japanese festivals, known as matsuri, are held all throughout the year, but in Kagoshima, there are a large number of events and matsuri held in the autumn, specifically, the end of October and beginning of November. Last week, I introduced Myoenji Mairi and Ohara Matsuri. Today, I will share two more, Yagoro-don Matsuri in Soo City and the bamboo lantern festival known as Take-toro held in Izumi.

Yagoro-don Matsuri (弥五郎どん祭り)

Yagoro-don Matsuri, which has a 900+ year history, is one of the top 3 festivals in Kagoshima, along with Ohara Matsuri(おはら祭) and Oshaka Matsuri(お釈迦祭り). Yagoro-don is a mythical giant from stories passed down in southern Kyushu. The origin of Yagoro-don and the festival are unclear, but it is widely believed the story comes from the 8th century when there was a rebellion attempt against the government and royal family. The leader of the rebellion was named Yagoro, and stories tell of him being less human and more giant. In the year 720, the Hayato Clan of Osumi fought again the Yamato Royal Family. They were greatly outnumbered and lost, but after the war, there was a ceremony to release the souls of the defeated warriors. This ceremony is said to be the origin of the Yagoro-don Matsuri. Now, during the festival, a giant (4.7meters, 15ft) Yagoro-don float is paraded through town with traditional dancing and music. Yagoro-don has become a mascot-like figure and is displayed around the city year-round. There is also a large Yagoro-don stone statue in the middle of town.

Take-toro Bamboo Festival(竹灯籠祭り)

Take-toro Bamboo Festival held in Izumi is a rather new festival. Started in the year 2015, this year will be only the fourth time, but it is quickly becoming well-known. The festival is held over a two week period with main events held around Oct. 31 ~ Nov. 3 depending on the year. During the festival, hand crafted bamboo lanterns are displayed around the city in 6 areas. Each area is beautifully brought to life with the lanterns becoming an artistic canvas to tell various stories. In 2016, the second year, it captured the Guinness World Record for “longest line of lit bamboo lanterns,” and has continued to grow every year. Throughout the town there are many events such as a bazaar, dance competition, live music, and much more. If you are in Izumi at this time, I also recommend you stop by the Crane Observatory. Izumi is the winter migration ground to over 10,000 cranes that journey from Siberia.

With all of these exciting events going on, it is quite possible this is the best time of year to visit Kagoshima. The climate is comfortable, the colors of nature are starting to change, and there is a festival atmosphere all throughout the prefecture. If you are considering a trip to Japan, you can’t go wrong with a trip to Kagoshima during this time. However, it is highly recommended to book your hotels in advance as many traveler both local and distant will be staying in the area for each festival.

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