Top 3 Festivals in Ishikawa
When visiting rural areas of Japan, getting a feel for the local lifestyles may prove more challenging than in their bustling city counterparts. But the annual festivals in these rural areas are an excellent way to eat, drink, and play like the locals. In Ishikawa prefecture these festivals often boast hundreds of years of tradition, assuring an authentic and unforgettable Japanese experience.
The Fire and Violence Festival (暴れ祭) – Ushitsu (宇出津)
Every year on the first weekend in July, way up the Ishikawa Peninsula in an area known as the Noto, the Japanese appeal to the Shinto god of sea and storms, Susanoo no Mikoto, through pure rage and destruction. The festival lasts for two days. The first day is dedicated to fire. Enormous lanterns, called kiriko, are hoisted upon sake addled festivarians. The lanterns are large enough to carry taiko drummers, flutists, and children. The lanterns, due to their extreme weight, can only be carried a few meters at a time, and this is done so amongst huge pillars of spitting fire. On the second night, a team of men comes bearing an indestructible mikoshi; a portable Shinto shrine. The team of men spends hours attempting to destroy the mikoshi by bashing it with sticks, dropping it from bridges into ocean canals, and rolling it through fire. The spectacle is one of determined chaos that reaches pitches of barbaric euphoria.
The Hyakumangoku Festival (百万石祭) – Kanazawa (金沢)
If Lord Maeda Toshiie’s entry into Kanazawa in the 16th century was anything like today’s Hyakumangoku Festival, it was opulent; perhaps the most impressive parade imaginable. The Hyakumangoku Festival is held each summer to commemorate the founding of present-day Kanazawa that began with the Lord’s entry into the city. Processions of samurai armies, considered the festival’s primary event, are followed up by dare-devil firemen doing traditional, death-defying tricks on old wooden ladders, as lion dancers snake through the streets to the sound of flutes and past enormous taiko drumming performances that pound away in picturesque spots throughout the city. The festival commences the night before the parade with over a thousand of candle-lit lanterns floating down the Asonogawa River. The festival’s climax comes when upwards of 10,000 colorfully dressed dancers perform along Kanazawa’s main streets. Onlookers drink, cheer, and get pulled into the dance along the way. The festival ends as serenely as it began with public tea ceremonies held throughout the city.
The Oyster Festival (牡蠣祭) – Anamizu (穴水)
It is no secret that Japan serves up some of the freshest, most well-prepared seafood in the world. And if it is seafood that you’re after, winter is your season. Anamizu town, the last stop on the Noto Railway, is an untouched and largely unknown place to sample the best seafood in the world. Each winter gigantic oysters are plucked from waters just off the coast of Anamizu. The abundance of the harvest calls for a festival in which the town sets up hundreds of charcoal grills under large, white tents just beside the ocean. As the snow falls soundlessly outside the tents, lucky locals and fortunate visitors stay warm by their grills, cooking and chatting. Besides oysters, there are trays of seasonal fish pulled fresh from the sea. Hot seafood stews, warm sake, and even local beer on tap are served as well. The food and the atmosphere could not make for a better glimpse into the Japanese lifestyle.