By Sandy Zimmerman
(Photos by Sandy Zimmerman unless indicated)
Preserved in the old Edo period (1600-1868), time seems to have been standing still for Takayama. The little city has been isolated from the rest of the world, yet during their festivals, its population of 96,000 swells with tourists. The Takayama Festival began in the 16th or early 17th century.
The stars of the festival are their unique Yatai floats (portable shrines), unlike any floats I have ever seen anywhere in the world! These ornate lacquered wooden floats are adorned with exquisite carvings, drapes, embossed and engraved metal ornaments, guilded wood, sculptures, images of dragons and other designs. Many of the Yatai floats date from the 17th century handed down from generation to generation.
It is a thrill to see the Yatai floats towering 20-23 feet above the crowd. Volunteers pull twelve large floats (weighing around 2,200 pounds each) during one festival and 11 for the other. When you look at the floats, you will realize each is decorated and designed differently.
As the parade moves along the streets, we hear folk musicians playing Shinto music and see hundreds of people wearing their traditional Japanese costumes and the Lion Dance performers purifying the streets.
Four of the floats have marionettes representing gods and Japanese nobility. We watch them move about. These large wooden dolls wear silk and brocade and are manipulated by strings and push rods from within the float by expert puppeteers.
Three marionettes have 36 strings which require the skills of 8 puppet masters. Along with all of these festivities, there is a special treat at night.
The floats are illuminated with a 100 glowing paper lanterns! This is a wonderful spectacle to experience, and one of the BEST reasons to visit Japan! The Takayama Festival celebrates twice welcoming the spring (April) and the autumn (October). It has been named one of the three most beautiful festivals in Japan.
Between festivals several of these magnificent floats can be seen at the Takayama Festival Float Exhibition Hall located next to Hachiman Shrine in the historic old town. Walking around the huge exhibit hall, I was dazzled by their beauty and amazed by their size. The four floats on display are rotated three times a year. A shrine maiden takes visitors on a tour The talented craftsmen designed each float differently, they are all exquisite works of art.
Takayama is located in the northern mountains of Gifu Prefecture. Located in central Japan, Nagoya is just 2 hours from Takayama by train, 2 hours by bus, and 2 hours/ 45 minutes by car.
Discover what Nagoya offers! Nagoya When I heard the Hida beef cows are massaged twice a day, I thought, They must be happy cows! The beef has a special texture and the massages are supposed to relieve stress, muscle stiffness, and provide even distribution of fat in the meat. The cattle are also brushed with sake. These cows are treated like family, better than some pets.Takayama is a historic city that is like an open air museum of the past.