Traditional Festivals in Aomori : Hachinohe Sansha Taisai - 2 (Hachinohe, Aomori, Japan)

The Hochinohe Sansha Taisai Festival lasts from ”Otori” on the first day until “Okaeri” on the third day. Every day, a magnificent procession that parades the streets is the highlight.

At 3 p.m. "Otori” got started. Along the main street, a lot of seats were lined up and stalls stood.

The procession that left the city hall went down the main street from the east to the west. Not only the main floats but also various kinds of traditional performing arts and historic customs appeared like a picture scroll one after another. Observed in detail, the procession was composed of three different processions separated per each shrine, and each procession had sacred music and dance (kagura), children’s parade (chigo-gyoretsu), cavalry warrior and various dances in the first half and floats of neighborhood associations that were a parishioner of each shrine in the latter half. The spearhead was the grand sacred music and dance of Shinmei-gu Shrine spearheads, which was related to the pilgrimage to the Ise Shrine that had been popular in the Edo era.

The first person in front of the floats was a woman called “Tekomai” and she walked ringing the bell “Jangara”. The next was a hundred people of “Hikiko” who pulled a float with a long rope along both sides of the street. At the center between “Hikiko” were musical accompanists who performed a Japanese flute. And, the floats appeared. On the floats were children who stroke a small drum in the front row and adults who stroke a big drum in the back. It seemed that everyone in a neighborhood association participated regardless of age and sex and, in the biggest group, the number of participants was more than 300 people. Even women pulling a baby carriage participated.

Depending on a neighborhood association, the main float spewed smoke and went up and down, so, it looked like a monster from a distance. Some floats looked excessive, but, in such festivals, it may be an unavoidable fate that a float is becoming showier than the previous year. I expect that rocket fireworks and doves will pop out within soon.

A weak point or a highlight for a float that has become gaudy and huge year after year is getting under the signal. Unlike the Hirosaki Neputa where people’s hands added at last, the floats in the industrial city Hachinohe were mechanized. That showed the pride of Japan as the industrial power country. When approaching the signal, the rear back protruding from the top fell over backward at first. Then, the decorations went down by turns from the back. Now, ready to pass under the signal. After having gone through the signal, the decorations jumped out suddenly and smoke rose as if a monster had raised crying and had blown up from the nose.

It was also amusing that the tip of the decorations on the left and right hand bumped into the utility pole and dropped downwardly in some floats because their attention was only taken on the height. The conflict between the expansion of the float and the size of infrastructure of the city was exposed.

The last of the procession that lasted nearly three hours was “Hanayatai” where elder women performed a dance on a moving stand. In the past, the real geisha showed a dance on the stand. But, since now the geisha activity declined, accredited masters of the Japanese traditional dance performed instead. It was strange that the appearance of such women, who brought up the rear, made me feel that I must go to a Japanese style bar after the festival.

Well, the fun of the Hachinohe Sansha Taisai festival continued after the procession. Similarly to “Emburi” in the winter, each neighborhood association turned around the town and showed a dance for gift money in front of shops, bars and rich family houses. When I continued to give ear, the sound of musical instrumental was heard here and there. On the streets, I often passed by those who wore a Japanese Kimono and strolled houses of patrons or bars. The aftertaste of the festival drifted until midnight and the gorgeous atmosphere continued.

In the Japanese style inn where I stay every time I visit Hachinohe, the landlady gives a gift money to all the groups who come to show a dance, so a group to perform turned up one after another.

It was fun to watch people who performed for the landlady at the entrance, but this must be more interesting that I myself welcomed them as a patron. When I watched and listened at front edge of entrance floor their performance to give a verbal message to pray the business prosperity with a flute, drum and shamisen, I was in the happy temper of my mind and the luck seemed to pour down. Though the landlady told me that the guest of the inn didn’t need to contribute to them, I gave them a handsome gift money.

To Japanese Version

Google Maps

From Tokyo to Hachinohe
by train
: 3 hours from “Tokyo Station” to “Hachinohe Station” by Shinkansen (high speed train), one service per one hour.

From “Hachinohe Station” to “downtown Hachinohe”
20 minutes by bus from “Hahinohe Station” to “Jusan-nichi-machi”, frequent service in the daytime. The site is within downtown Hachinohe near "Jusan-nichi-machi".

Hachinohe Tourist Information Website

Aomori Sightseeng Guide

Acoommodations in Hachinohe

"八戸三社大祭の歴史"(三浦忠司, 伊吉書院, 2007)
"八戸三社大祭公式ガイドブック"(八戸観光コンベンション協会, 2011)

2018.01 Photos in English version, and photos and text in Japanese version

2018.09 Text in English version

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Hachinohe Sansha Taisai - "Otori" Procession

Photo by Daigo Ishii