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All Kanazawa’s 3-Day Festival: Hyakumangoku

Kanazawa’s 3-Day Festival: Hyakumangoku

07.03.2018

Japanese Festival Every First Full Weekend in June
jump to festival schedule below

100 Taiko Drums in front of Kanazawa Station's Drum Gate for the Hyakumangoku Festival

The largest Japanese festival of Kanazawa is a three-day bash at the start of June centered around the city’s rich samurai and artisan history. Taiko drums, lanterns on the river, marching samurai warriors, music on Japanese flutes and shamisen, lion dances, noh plays, yosakoi, tea ceremony, and over 10,000 people dancing in the streets at once!

Hyakumangoku parade drummers at the festival samurai feigning knocking an arrow at the Hyakumangoku Festival in Kanazawa The Dancing Whirlpool at Kanazawa's Hyakumangoku Festival kaga yuzen lanterns float down the Asano River for Hyakumangoku Festival

Lanterns in the River, Lanterns in the Streets

The Children's Lantern Parade passing in front of Kaname Inn Tatemachi, during the Hyakumangoku Festival in Kanazawa Japan

The festivities begin on a Friday evening in early summer with children parading along the streets, holding lanterns and chanting along to taiko drums. Starting from Kanazawa Central Park, they march out along many streets throughout Kanazawa, lighting the way with brilliant red orbs.

Kaga-yuzen Toro Nagashi, the releasing of lanterns down a river, during the Hyakumangoku Festival in Kanazawa Japan

Along the Asano River, the Kaga-yuzen Tōrō Nagashi is held, and hand-painted silk-screen lanterns are released to the current, lighting the water as they float from one end of the city to the other, guiding the spirits of the departed and inviting them to join in on the weekend’s festivities.

kaga yuzen lanterns float down the Asano River for Hyakumangoku Festival

Taiko, Samurai, and Castles—Oh Noh!

a hundred taiko drums in front of Kanazawa Station's drum gate at the Hyakumangoku Festival Parade

The grand commencement ceremony of the weekend begins Saturday afternoon in front of Kanazawa Station. A hundred taiko drummers play in unison in front of Kanazawa Station’s “Drum Gate,” to introduce the festival’s main event, the Hyakumangoku Parade.

The Kaga Lion Dance Mask at the dragon's head in Kanazawa's Hyakumangoku Festival Parade

As with many city parades in the west, the matrix includes local dance, music, and government groups, including firefighters and police. However, the scene soon transitions to more unusual fare, as the paraders pause to play ancient songs on bamboo flutes and taiko drums and put on lion dancing shows with traditionally made Kaga Lion Dance Masks, one of the areas many crafting specialties.

Kaga Firefighters show off their acrobatic skill during the Hyakumangoku Festival Parade

In a tradition more than three centuries old, firefighters climb bamboo ladders supported only by others’ hands. As they perform acrobatics at the ladders’ peak, massive tassels shake and twirl, and the crowds cheer.

bannermen of toshiie maeda at the hyakumangoku festival parade

Finally, the re-enactors arrive, dressed in full samurai battle wear and armed with katanas and bows, as they make way for the star of the show, Kanazawa’s first daimyo, Toshiie Maeda, on horseback.

Japanese actor Tarou Kawano portraying Toshiie Maeda at the 2012 Hyakumangoku Matsuri in Kanazawa

The Maeda lord and his wife are played each year by a different pair of well-known actors, and so are always crowd favorites.
 
Hyakumangoku Festival Evening Noh Performance at Kanazawa Japanese Castle

The parade culminates in front of Kanazawa Castle, where the Maedas are officially welcomed and a Noh plays are performed for the crowd on into the evening.
 
Hyakumangoku Festival Whirlpool Dance nonJapanese welcome

As the parade ends, the roads are flooded with more than 12,500 dancers, volunteers and performers from the city occupy the street in a massive swirl of movement for two solid hours. Jump in with some of the tourist-welcoming groups and follow along with the traditional dance steps of the Kaga region.

If all the festivities make you hungry, you’re in luck! Throughout Saturday afternoon and evening, food booths and tents are open along the main roads and near Oyama Shrine for a tasty bite on the go.

Matcha Tea for Everyone!

Matcha Tea Served with Wagashi Soft Sweet to Kimono-wearing Person in Kanazawa

The weekend finishes off calmly in a day of rest and contemplation, as public tea ceremonies are hosted at various locations in and around Kenroku-en on Saturday and Sunday from 8:30 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. Same day tickets for tea services are first come first serve at 1500 yen a piece, but can be bought in advance at a discount of two for 2000 yen at select locations, including Nodaya on Tatemachi Street, just a few blocks away from Kaname accommodations.
 

Hyakumangoku Festival Schedule 

Times listed are approximate based on previous events’s schedules. Links to the official Hyakumangoku Festival site will change throughout the year. 

FRIDAY

9:00 a.m.
Water is ceremoniously drawn from Kanazawa’s own sacred well at Kanazawa Shrine, near the back of Kenroku-en Garden and brought to Seisonkaku Villa. Tea ceremonies performed outside.

10:00 a.m.
Shinto prayers begin at Oyama Shrine.

1:00 p.m.
Dedication ceremonies begin at Oyama Shrine.

6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Kenshibu, “sword & fan and poetry dance,” dedication at Oyama Shrine.

6:40 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Children’s parade with lanterns, festival costume, and drums, departing from the Shiinoki Culture Complex on route around the Kohrinbo and Musashi-ga-Tsuji areas.

7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Kaga Yuzen Lanterns launched down the Asano River.
(
In case of rain, this event will be postponed to Saturday.)

SATURDAY

8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
(reception until 3:00 p.m.)
Traditional Japanese tea service is provided in and around Kenroku-en Garden

9:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Various ceremonies at Oyama Shrine.

10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. 
New Year’s Celebration in June!
Kanazawa Castle Park becomes something of a fairground, with performances throughout the day, crafts, workshops, kimono rentals, songs, and dancing, including traditional lion dances.

1:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Food stands open up near Oyama Shrine and elsewhere along the parade route.
The beer garden (Asahi) at Oyama Shrine opens.

2:00 p.m. – 2:20 p.m.
Commencement Ceremony in front of Kanazawa Station. Dancing, music, and a hundred taiko drums striking in unison.

2:20 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
The Hyakumangoku Matrix begins!
This is a full parade, with bands, batons, lion dances, walking shrines, acrobatics, and re-enactors in full samurai costume. The parade starts from Kanazawa Station, turns right at Musashi-ga-Tsuji (near Omicho Fish Market), left into Hirosaka, and left again to Kanazawa Castle Park.

3:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Karate demonstration at Oyama Shrine.

4:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Taiko drum performance at Oyama Shrine.

4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Entrance Ceremony, as the figures of Toshiie Maeda and his wife Matsu are welcomed at Kanazawa Castle.

6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
The Dancing Whirlpool of 12,500 people overtakes Kohrinbo, Katamachi, and Hirosaka in downtown Kanazawa

6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Bonfire at Oyama Shrine.

6:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.*
Children’s Noh performance at Kanazawa Castle Park.

7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.*
Noh and Kyogen performances at Kanazawa Castle Park, lit by firelight.

* Time may vary according to earlier events; in case of foul weather, productions will be held at the Ishikawa Prefectural Noh Theatre.

SUNDAY

8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
(reception until 3:00 p.m.)
Traditional Japanese tea service is provided in and around Kenroku-en Garden

9:00 a.m. – 5:10 p.m.
Various ceremonies at Oyama Shrine.

9:00 a.m. (start)
Kyodo, traditional Japanese archery event behind Kanazawa Castle.

10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
New Year’s Celebration in June, day 2!
Kanazawa Castle Park becomes something of a fairground, with performances throughout the day, crafts, workshops, kimono rentals, martial arts demonstrations, songs, and dancing, including traditional lion dances.

11:00 a.m. – 11:40 a.m.
Iaido demonstration at Oyama Shrine. When the tension between swordsmen breaks, the most important move is the first one: the drawing of the sword.

11:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Traditional Meiji-era artillery demonstration on the backside of Kanazawa Castle (first showing).

10:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Traditional regional folk music and dancing performances at the Kanazawa Opera House (Kanazawa Kagekiza). Ticket information, TBA. Seats may be limited.

2:20 a.m. – 2:40 p.m.
Traditional Meiji-era artillery demonstration on the backside of Kanazawa Castle (second showing).

3:00 p.m. – 3:50 p.m.
Hōchōdō demonstration at Oyama Shrine: In this centuries-old Shinto practice, a master practitioner will use only a large knife and metal chopsticks to finely cut an offering of fish for the gods, untouched by human hands.


1st, 7th, 14th, and last photos courtesy of Kanazawa City
last update: 2018 July 2

Ryann
Ryann

Half a decade ago Ryann fell off a bus and then fell in love with this traditional-crafts and ice-cream-consuming capital of Japan. Editor and amateur photographer with a penchant for nature and history. Not actually fifty songbirds in a trench coat.