Kurikoma Dashi (Float) Festival is held on the last weekend of July every year in Kurikoma in Kurihara City, Miyagi Prefecture. It is an attractive festival that tells coming of summer. It originates in the festival held to pray for a rich harvest about 300 years ago, when the area was under the rule of the Date clan.
On the eve of the festival on Saturday, some of the floats parade through the town, while the Bird Dance by elementary school children, the Teodori Dance by 300 women and Monji-Jinku, the distinctive combination of folk song and dancing, are performed all over the town.
On the main festival day on Sunday, Ohayashi music performance is held at the festival center early in the afternoon. Then the 10 festival floats altogether start for the parade all through the town.
The floats are about 4 m tall and decorated with colorful ornaments. Each float is carrying a huge colorful doll of popular figure such as Miyamoto Musashi, Kaguyahime and Matsuo Basho. The dolls are designed to move mechanically. The town receives about 30,000 tourists for the two-day festival period every year.
Teizan Canal, 46.6 km in total length, is Japan’s longest canal built along Sendai Bay, connecting the mouth of the Old Kitakami River and the mouth of the Abukuma River. The first section of the canal, which connected Matsushima Bay and the Abukuma River, was constructed in 1597 by the order of Date Masamune. After his death, the extension works were continued. The canal was named after Masamune’s Buddhist name.
Until the end of the 19th century, boats and ships were the main means of transportation in Japan. After the Meiji restoration (1868), Home Minister, Okubo Toshimichi, asked the governors of the 6 prefectures in the Tohoku region about what they most needed. As a result, he concluded that construction of the canal to connect the Kitakami River, the main artery of the region, and the Abukuma River was indispensable for transporting rice. The construction was completed in 1884.
Today, it is used as an agricultural waterway and functions as a part of fishing ports. In the area along the canal from the Nanakita River to the Natori River spreads a fine seaside park, where a beautiful pine grove continues and a cycling road is equipped.
Matsushima Lantern Float Festival Fireworks Display is held on August 17 every year along the coastline of Matsushima Bay including Matsushima Coast. The Lantern Float Festival was first held about 700 years ago as the Buddhist ritual. The priests at Zuiganji Temple, which was the largest Zen temple in the Tohoku district at the time, floated the lanterns onto the sea and read mantra to send off the spirits of the ancestors. Today, a lot of citizens float the lanterns onto the sea praying for their ancestors’ souls from their heart.
Over the light of numerous lanterns floating on the sea, about 8,000 fireworks are shot up into the dark sky. The gorgeous displays of Starmine and a 30 cm diameter ball along with the flames of the lanterns create fantastic scenery. Matsushima Bay is famous for its scenic beauty, but on this specific night, a lot of people come to visit this area to see another gorgeous scene of Matsushima Bay.
The summer festival is held on the 1st Saturday of August every year at Jogi Nyorai Saihoji Temple in Okura, Aoba-ku, Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture. Located in the heart of mountains near the border of Yamagata Prefecture, it is a stately and historic temple with the formal seven structures and the huge precinct.
At the end of the Heian period, Taira no Sadayoshi, a loyal retainer of the Taira clan, secretly moved to this location and changed his name Sadayoshi to Jogi because he wanted to hide himself from his enemies. When Sadayoshi passed away in 1198, his servants and followers built a small temple beside his graveyard and enshrined the Amida Buddha’s scroll in the temple according to his will.
The summer festival in August is held to appease the soul of Sadayoshi. The parade of mikoshi (portable shrine) and dedication of performing arts are held during the day, while beautiful fireworks are shot up into the darkness of the sky at night. The five-storied pagoda against colorful illumination of the fireworks looks fantastically beautiful.
Hadaka Kasedori is the traditional New Year’s event handed down in the Kirigome area in Kami Town, Miyagi Prefecture. It is held on the night of January 15 every year in hope of fire prevention and getting rid of bad luck. It is prefecturally designated as an intangible folk cultural property.
This is a very unique festival, in which half-naked men with “Hebiso (soot from the Japanese traditional kitchen range)” on the faces visit each of the houses in the village. They are treated with sake and meals, while applying Hebiso on the faces of the family members.
This custom is said to be a kind of rite of passage in that boys over 15 years old undergo physical hardship. New participants, newly married men and men with unlucky ages must wear straw hats and Shimenawa (sacred rice-straw ropes) over their loincloths; and then they stand in front of each houses and are poured cold water all over their bodies.
Mt. Nonodake in Wakuya Town in Miyagi Prefecture has been known as the holy mountain since the ancient times. Nonodake Hakusan Festival with a history of more than 1,000 years is performed gracefully with the traditional ritual at Konpoji Temple at the top of the mountain. The festival is continued for about 1 month from New Year’s Day to the end of January.
The most attractive event during the festival period is the Oyumi (the sacred archery) ritual performed on the 4th Sunday of January. After the prayer for a rich harvest is offered, the rice cake called “Oshitogiage” is dedicated to Hakusan Gongen. Then, assisted by the priests, two Chigo (young boy acolytes) wearing Eboshi hats and Hitatare garments shoot twelve arrows that represent twelve months of the year. This is an augury for the climate and harvest of the year. If an arrow hits the mark, they will have a good weather, and if an arrow misses the mark, they will have a strong wind. The archery augury by the cute boys gets a favorable reputation that it is accurate.
Izunuma and Uchinuma are lakes forming a wetland in Senhoku Plain in Miyagi Prefecture. The total area of the wetland is 4 sq. m and the water depth is only 1.6 m at the deepest. Being designated as a Ramsar Site, the lakes provide wintering places for waterfowls such as Greater White-fronted Goose (National Natural Monument) and Bean Goose and habitats for aquatic plants and insects.
Izunuma-Uchinuma Lotus Flower Festival is held from the end of July to the end of August, when the surface of the pond is covered with beautiful lotus flowers. Pale pink lotus flowers among green leaves make a brilliant contrast with clear blue sky. Flowers can be viewed from the walking trails and surrounding roads. Also, as a sightseeing-boat is operated during the festival, you van enjoy viewing the lotus flowers from the boat in the center of the pond.
The Naked Festival is held on the second Sunday of March every year at Sekison Shrine in Muyari in Wakayanagi Town, Kurihara City, Miyagi Prefecture. The god enshrined at Sekison Shrine is worshiped by local people as the god of fire prevention since a big fire was extinguished by the divine power during the Muromachi period (1336-1573). After the fire was ceased, people began to dedicate the Naked Festival in hope of receiving protection of the god and it has become a traditional Shinto event of the town.
On the morning of the festival day, when it is still cold in this district, several men of Yaku-doshi (the unlucky age) wearing only loincloths and head bands visit every house in the town, where they take up the pail storing water for extinguishing fire and pour water over themselves and then dynamically throw water at the roof of the house. Praying for fire prevention of the town, they walk about 2 km to visit 120 houses. When they throw up water with a powerful call, the spectators erupt into cheers and applause. When the festival is over, the cold eases with the arrival of spring.