Make a wish for the year ahead
The Hatsuichi Matsuri is a traditional festival that has been celebrated in Maebashi, Gunma Prefecture, japan, every January since the 17th century. This lively event is held to give thanks for past triumphs and to wish for good luck in the new year. At the center of the festival is the daruma doll, a paper-mâché doll modeled after Bodhidharma, the founder of Zen Buddhism. People gather to place their old daruma on a bonfire and purchase a new one for the coming year.
The festival takes place on January 9th each year on Route 50 in downtown Maebashi. Rain or shine, hundreds of stalls are set up along the street, selling charms and daruma dolls. The daruma doll is the most common item offered, but there are also other types of charms available, such as maneki-neko cats. Visitors to the festival have the opportunity to browse through the stalls and find the perfect charm or daruma doll to bring them luck in the new year.
One of the unique aspects of the Hatsuichi Matsuri is the absence of price tags on the items being sold. This allows visitors to engage in the traditional market practice of bargaining with the friendly stall owners. It adds an element of excitement and a sense of camaraderie to the festival experience.
The daruma doll holds great significance during the festival. It is popular among people starting new endeavors and students aiming to pass their exams. The doll is believed to bring good luck and help fulfill wishes. The process of using the daruma doll involves coloring in one of its eyes when making a wish and placing it in a prominent place where it can keep watch over the wish. When the wish comes true, the other eye is colored in, symbolizing the fulfillment of the wish.
The festival kicks off around 10 a.m. with a ceremonial burning of the previous year’s daruma dolls. This act symbolizes the return of the good luck charm to the heavens and the start of a new year filled with hope and possibilities. After the bonfire, a portable shrine carrying the spirit of the market god is paraded through the streets, accompanied by lively music and dancing. This procession is a highlight of the festival and attracts a large crowd of spectators.
In addition to the daruma doll burning and the procession, there are various other activities and events taking place during the Hatsuichi Matsuri. Visitors can enjoy traditional Japanese performances, such as taiko drumming and dance performances. There are also food stalls offering a wide range of delicious local specialties, allowing festival-goers to indulge in the flavors of Gunma Prefecture.
The Hatsuichi Matsuri holds a special place in the hearts of the people of Maebashi. It is a time for reflection, gratitude, and optimism for the future. The festival has its roots in the silk industry, with merchants originally wishing for a prosperous year of silk production and sales at the first market. Over the centuries, the festival has evolved into a celebration of community, culture, and the spirit of the new year.
The city of Maebashi is also known as the Daruma doll capital, with nearby Takasaki being the center of Daruma doll production. The festival in Maebashi predates the one in Takasaki and has been held for centuries. It is a testament to the deep cultural heritage of the region and the importance placed on traditions and rituals.
To reach Maebashi, the nearest shinkansen (bullet train) stop is Takasaki Station, which is approximately a one-hour journey from Tokyo. From Takasaki, visitors can take the Ryomo Line to Maebashi Station, which is just a 10-minute walk from Honmachi-dori, the main street where the festival takes place. The convenient transportation options make it easy for both locals and tourists to attend the Hatsuichi Matsuri and experience the vibrant atmosphere of the festival.
In conclusion, the Hatsuichi Matsuri in Maebashi, Gunma Prefecture, is a traditional festival that has been celebrated for centuries. It is a time for people to give thanks for past successes and wish for good luck in the new year. The festival centers around the daruma doll, a symbol of hope and fulfillment. Visitors to the festival can browse through the stalls, purchase a new daruma doll, and participate in the tradition of coloring in its eyes to make a wish. The burning of the old daruma dolls and the procession of the market god are highlights of the festival, creating a festive and joyous atmosphere. The Hatsuichi Matsuri is not only a celebration of culture and tradition but also a time for communities to come together and embrace the spirit of the new year.
Address And Maps Location:
2-7-2 Honmachi, Maebashi-shi, Gunma-ken