Japanese Harvest Festival (Horai Matsuri)

Weeks of preparation have been going into this event. The shrill of Japanese flutes, heavily strummed shamisens and screaming stick-wielding, lion-fighting children fills the cool autumn night air. The back streets of Tsurugi are alive every evening in the build-up to this annual event.

The diaspora will return, families will gather and the very rare workday will be taken off to attend this age-old (800 years if truth be told) festival.

Each community is challenged to produce an unforgettable legend to hoist upon their shoulders. Loyal to tradition, these floats are carried on the shoulders of young men (and sometimes women, depending on the openness of the community). Often taken from folklore or mythology, these characters tower 8-10 meters high and often carry their very own MC to spur on the carriers.

Witnessing this event is a fantastic experience, locals are open and welcoming, sake carts parade through the street distributing a warming drink on an autumn day or evening. Houses are open to the public and welcome new visitors and old. This harvest celebration carries an undertone of fertility and devilment. Crude images and even symbols of genitalia and trolls litter the street.

The festival starts on Friday afternoon with the collection of local offerings, each float will collect donations from local supporting families: offerings are made in cash or sake, and received with what appears to be a tribal dance and explicit chant. The climax of the event will be Sunday evening when the floats compete with each other in a kind of standoff. On Monday, a reluctant, hungover and emotional group of comrades will haul their float up a tortuous hill to where it will be displayed for the year (and never to be used again). Floats can be seen all year round at Park Shishiku.

Tsurugi is accessible via the Ishikawa Line from Kanazawa . The festival takes place in the first week of October, contact us for details.

Special Thanks to:

Author: Mike Keenan

Photo Credits: Mike Keenan