The Popular Festivals of Mie Prefecture 三重県の夏祭り
Credit: Rhtakeuchi, Wikimedia
Back of a Ishidori matsuri float
Credit: 三塚, wikimedia
Shinto priest blesses ama before diving
Unmissable Matsuri on the Kii Peninsula
The festivals (matsuri) in Japan are colorful moments that often reveal another side of the Japanese: their customary reserve gives way to exuberance but perfectionism is always in order, each celebration is skillfully orchestrated. As an example, these four major events that take place in Mie Prefecture. Celebrating the legendary ninja or the ama divers with the resounding sound of gongs and drums, discover the great festivals (matsuri) of the Mie Prefecture with Japan Experience.
Ishidori Matsuri in Kuwana
This festival takes place in the city of Kuwana. Ishidori literally means "stone bringing" and in the Edo period (1603-1868), a ceremony was held to thank the Machiya-gawa river for providing stones to the inhabitants. The custom has disappeared but the festival has remained and has even been registered as a UNESCO "Intangible Cultural Heritage site".
Ishidori matsuri is known as the loudest festival in Japan! Taiko (Japanese drum) and gongs are placed on huge floats (saisha) decorated with large cardboard dolls and paper lanterns. Each year, the party begins at midnight on the first Saturday in August and continues for 24 hours. There are 43 floats in total, one of the largest in Japan, which are paraded through the streets of the city in a joyful cacophony. This festival is awaited and prepared by the locals for an entire year, hence their exuberance and the incredible energy they display for 24 hours!
The party reaches its peak on Sunday at 6.30 p.m when the participants of each float redouble their efforts and energy to sound gongs and drums in front of the Shinto sanctuary Kasuga. The end of the celebration, at 10 p.m, is also a great moment: all the floats, adorned with paper lanterns, are pulled one behind the other to close the ceremony. The lights of the lanterns that flicker under the rolling of the floats, the thunderous music and the cheering crowd make this night an extraordinary experience.
Address: Kasuga shrine, 46 Honmachi, Kuwana-shi, Mie Prefecture
- Read also: Summer festivals in Japan
Shirongo festival in Toba
A unique celebration in honor of the protective god of Sugashima Island, Shirahige daimyojin, and Ama, the Japanese divers and shellfish harvesters. Passed down from generation to generation for centuries, this festival aims to pray for their safety at sea and for abundant fishing.
While the waters around the island are prohibited for fishing, every year on the 11th July (or the Saturday closest to that date), on the day of the festival, at the signal of the sound of a conch shell, the Ama divers, dressed in a white tunic, jump into the water to catch a couple of male and female abalone, named " Maneki Awabi ", lucky abalone (like Maneki Neko, the "lucky cat", awabi means abalone).
The first diver who catches the "Maneki Awabi " is named as the chief divers for the coming year.
How to get there: by boat from the Toba Marine Terminal then around 20 minutes on foot from the port of Sugashima, along the Shirongo Kaido path.
Address: Shirongo beach, Sugashima-cho, Toba-shi, Mie Prefecture
Kumano fireworks festival
A fireworks festival that has delighted the population for over 300 years! The event takes place at the time of the Obon Festival, the celebration of the dead, around mid-July (the date changes each year), starting at 7 p.m on Shichirimihama Beach in the town of Kumano.
Fireworks are set off from boat out at sea, lighting up the summer sky. Other fireworks light up rocks on the coast, such as the lion rock (Shishiiwa, lion rock) which makes the thunderous “boom” echo! A night not to be missed if you are in the region.
How to get there: From JR Kumano station, cross the Ido river south and walk to Shichirimihama beach.
Address: Kinomoto-cho & Ido-cho, Kumano-shi, Mie-ken
- Read also: The top 5 fireworks in Japan
Iga Ueno NINJA Festa
It is not a traditional festival, but given the popularity of ninja, this festival has its place on our list. The city of Iga (which was attached to that of Ueno) has been known since the Middle Ages as the "cradle of ninja" and now attracts visitors with the ninja museum.
Each year, from 1st April - 6th May (dates may vary by a few days), a five-week festival is dedicated to the ninja. Thousands of fans come from all over the world to participate in this great and unique celebration. During the weekends and public holidays during this period, shows, combat technique workshops, costume competitions, and other events take place and delight everyone, young and old.
Any takers: Iga row passengers can travel free if they are disguised as ninja.
Address: Ueno Marunochi, Iga-shi, Mie Prefecture
Ninja fighting demonstration at Iga
Credit: m-louis .®