Second Sunday of November
Every year on the second Sunday of November in Yakage Town, a reenactment of the feudal lord’s procession to Edo, the old capital of Japan, takes place. The town was the 18th post town (lodging town) along the former Sanyo Road that led to the halfway point in Osaka and is home to two sites that served as accommodation for the travelling lords. Yakage is the only place in Japan where you will find two such designated national treasures, namely the Honjin and Wakihonjin, on the same street.
Around 80 townspeople take on the role of multiple characters of the parade which dates back to 1976 when in September of that year the annual typhoons brought heavy rain and floods resulting in substantial damage to the main shopping street. As natural calamities took a considerable toll on the activity of the area, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Youth Division came up with a plan to revitalize the district and created the Daimyo Parade.
The most striking aspect of the festival are the wonderful colors of the costumes worn by the members of the procession. Brilliant reds, blues, and yellows in so many patterns make an appealing spectacle for onlookers.
The characters of the procession include the princess, the wife of the nobleman, the chief retainer, the lord’s magistrate as well as female and male servants. The princess and the wife of the noblewoman are selected by a voting process every year during the Yakage Summer Festival. Women from across the region, dressed in summer kimono, vie for a chance to portray these time-honored roles.
While the procession itself does not start until 12:00pm, it is a good idea to arrive in town by at least 9:00am, especially if you are driving. There is free parking near the town center but it is limited and fills up fast. Even if you cannot make it that early, you will more than likely be able to find a place with a little perseverance.
Even if you get yo Yakage by 9:00am on parade day, you will probably feel like you have arrived late because things will have already gotten fully underway. Most of the food stalls will have already been set up and hundreds of people will be out and about.
One of the reasons for this is that a kids’ marathon is held in the morning featuring the members of local children’s’ sports clubs.The nifty thing about the event is that the participants have to run while holding miniature replicas of some of the paraphernalia of the daimyo parade.
Once the marathon is over people start to concentrate on food as lunchtime approaches. As a rule there are several stalls scattered around that will sell the same thing. For example you might see beef skewers at one stall and find something similar for sale a little further down the lane. This helps keep lines to a minimum. Keep in mind that attendance can swell to well over 40,000 people.
Popular food items include fried soba noodles, frankfurters and grilled chicken. Most of the businesses along the shopping street close for the day, however, the owners usually set up stalls in front of their establishments.You can buy much more than just food and drink, it is a full-on multi-sectioned street market with crafts, clothing and curios.
The thing to do is to make your way up and down the street several times to make sure that you don’t miss anything. A trance-inducing kagura theater performance for the gods is put on during the late hours of the morning in the old community hall at the eastern end of the shopping street.
At 12:30 on the dot in the parking lot next to the Yakage Machiya Kouryukan, there is a samurai warrior matchlock rifle demonstration, where eardrum shattering rounds are let off in succession, filling the air with white smoke and the smell of a million firecrackers.
The rifle firing demonstration marks the start of the Daimyo Parade which begins at the far west end of the shopping street but if you think that you will be late for the oncoming parade, do not worry because it moves at a very slow pace, as the prescribed movements that are performed by members of the procession in a ritualistic fashion take some time to complete. A herald chants the expression, “shita-ni, shita-ni” rhythmically over a loudspeaker as the procession makes its way down the street following its cadence.
Access: Take the Hakubi Line from JR Okayama Station to JR Kiyone Station. Walk along the platform at JR Kiyone Station and transfer to the Ibara Line. Take the Ibara Line from Ibara Railway Kiyone Station to Ibara Railway Yakage Station. The Yakage Town shopping street is about a 10-minute walk from Ibara Railway Yakage Station.
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