See how japan‘s nobility partied a thousand years ago at the Mifune Matsuri
The Mifune Matsuri is an annual festival held in May in Kyoto’s Arashiyama district. It is a fascinating event that re-creates the imperial boating parties that were held by the Emperor and his court over a thousand years ago. This festival offers a unique opportunity to experience the rich history and culture of Japan.
The festival features various performances, including dances, music, and poetry recitations, all performed on boats made in the ancient style. These boats are beautifully crafted and designed to resemble the boats used by the nobility during the Heian period. The dancers and musicians wear traditional costumes, with women dressed in elaborate 12-layer kimono, adding to the grandeur of the event.
To attend the Mifune Matsuri, you can make your way to Kurumazaki Shrine, which is just a short walk from Kurumazaki Shrine station on Keifuku Dentetsu. The main venue for the festival is the Oi river, near the famous Togetsu-kyo bridge. To reach the venue, you can take a train from Kyoto Station to Saga-Arashiyama Station on the San-in Main Line, which takes around 15 minutes. From there, it’s a 10-minute walk south toward the riverside to reach Togetsu-kyo Bridge.
The Mifune Festival is held on the third Sunday of May and attracts up to 100,000 tourists each year. The highlight of the festival is the fleet of twenty boats that re-create the grandeur of the ancient imperial parties. The performances on these boats showcase the three arts practiced during the festival: Japanese poetry (waka), Chinese poetry (kanshi), and musical performance and dance (sogaku). The festival is named after the Japanese characters for Mifune, which literally mean three boats, symbolizing the three arts.
The origins of the Mifune Matsuri date back to 1928 when it was first organized by the Kurumazaki-jinja Shrine, which stands close to the river. The shrine is dedicated to the patron deity of the performing arts and is visited by many famous stars who come to offer prayers for success in their performances. The shrine also attracts members of Kyoto’s geiko (geisha) community, adding to the cultural significance of the festival.
The festival begins with a ritual held at the shrine at noon, after which the participants dressed in period costumes proceed along Arashiyama’s Togetsukyo Bridge and board the boats. High priests from the shrine lead the procession, followed by women dressed in 12-layer kimono who float sensu fans of assorted colors on the river. Dancers and musicians from the region also participate in the festival, showcasing their talents and adding to the vibrant atmosphere.
Unlike typical Japanese matsuri, which are known for their festive and lively atmosphere, the Mifune Matsuri has a more serene and elegant ambiance. It offers a unique opportunity to immerse oneself in the rich history and traditions of Japan. The festival allows visitors to witness the grandeur and sophistication of the imperial parties that were held centuries ago.
Attending the Mifune Matsuri is not only a visual spectacle but also a chance to learn about the cultural significance of the event. It is a celebration of art, poetry, and music, showcasing the talents and skills of the performers. By participating in this festival, visitors can gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of Japanese culture and traditions.
In addition to the festival itself, the Arashiyama area offers other attractions that visitors can explore. The famous Sagano Scenic Railway is a must-visit, offering stunning views of the surrounding nature and landscapes. The Takigi Noh performance at Kofukuji Temple is another cultural event worth experiencing. These attractions, combined with the Mifune Matsuri, make Arashiyama a popular destination for both locals and tourists.
In conclusion, the Mifune Matsuri is a captivating festival that re-creates the imperial boating parties of Japan’s nobility a thousand years ago. It offers a unique opportunity to witness traditional dances, music, and poetry recitations performed on ancient-style boats. The festival’s serene ambiance and cultural significance make it a must-visit event for those interested in Japanese history and culture. By attending the Mifune Matsuri, visitors can immerse themselves in the grandeur and beauty of Japan’s rich traditions.
Address And Maps Location:
23 Sagaasahi-cho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto-fu