Celebrate children’s kabuki all over town in one of japan‘s three greatest float festivals
The Nagahama Hikiyama Festival is a renowned matsuri (festival) held in mid-April in the Hikone area of Nagahama, Shiga Prefecture. This festival is dedicated to kabuki, a traditional form of Japanese theater, performed by children. The festival begins at Nagahama Hachimangu Shrine and features various activities throughout the town. It is a grand spectacle that showcases the beauty and cultural heritage of Japan.
The festival is known for its impressive hikiyama floats, which are ornately decorated and serve as portable stages for kabuki performances. These floats are a source of local pride and have been maintained by the communities in Nagahama for more than 400 years. The festival started as a celebration of the birth of a son to local warlord Hideyoshi Toyotomi and has since become one of Japan’s biggest float festivals.
One of the highlights of the Nagahama Hikiyama Festival is the kodomo kabuki, or children’s kabuki, performances. Young boys between the ages of five and 12 take center stage and showcase their talents in kabuki theater. They spend their school holidays mastering the art of kabuki, including learning the intricate choreography, practicing their lines, and applying their own makeup. The children’s performances are a sight to behold, as they bring the characters to life with their vibrant costumes and expressive acting.
During the festival, four of the town’s hikiyama floats are chosen by lottery to be pulled through the streets of Nagahama. The child actors perform on these floats, captivating the audience with their skill and enthusiasm. The floats are not only a means of transportation but also serve as stages, where the children put on a virtuoso show. When the floats are not in motion, the child actors strike poses, allowing visitors to capture memorable photographs.
The Nagahama Hikiyama Festival was inscribed on UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2016. This recognition highlights the cultural significance and value of the festival, as it showcases the unique traditions and artistry of kabuki theater. The festival attracts both domestic and international tourists who come to experience the vibrant atmosphere and witness the captivating performances.
To attend the festival, visitors can easily access Nagahama Hachimangu Shrine by train and then on foot or by taxi. The shrine is located in Nagahama, Shiga Prefecture, and can be reached by taking the Tokaido Shinkansen to Maibara. From Maibara, it is a short ride on the Hokuriku Line to Nagahama. The shrine is approximately 15 minutes away on foot from JR Nagahama Station.
Apart from the festival itself, visitors can also explore the Nagahama Hikiyama Museum, where they can learn more about the tradition and history of the festival. The museum showcases the elaborate floats and provides insights into the craftsmanship and artistry involved in their creation. It is a fascinating opportunity to delve deeper into the cultural heritage of Nagahama and gain a greater appreciation for the festival.
In conclusion, the Nagahama Hikiyama Festival is a magnificent celebration of kabuki performed by children. It is a testament to the rich cultural heritage of Japan and the dedication of the local communities in preserving and showcasing their traditions. The festival offers a unique and immersive experience for visitors, allowing them to witness the beauty and artistry of kabuki theater up close. Whether you are a fan of traditional Japanese culture or simply looking for a memorable cultural experience, the Nagahama Hikiyama Festival is not to be missed.
Address And Maps Location:
13-55 Miyamae-cho, Nagahama-shi, Shiga-ken