Seasons and culture of Japan

MATSURI ( 祭り )

All over Japan, during different times of the year, large and small festivals occur. In Japanese, a festival is called: MATSURI ( 祭り ), and it normally is organized and carried out by people who live around a neighborhood shrine. The kanji character " 祭 " has the meaning of "to pray," and the ancient roots of Japanese festivals trace back worshiping and celebrating the different gods ( KAMI 神 ) who live in the shrines. MATSURI are also held to commemorate seasonal or historic events. A typical example of a local shrine MATSURI is as follows: (1) the date is of the festival is well-known, and has likely been unchanged for many years, (2) as the date of the MATSURI approaches, neighborhood associations and shrine adherents will start preparations, (3) lanterns are strung-up and a traditional dance platform is built in a park, playground, or open public space where the festival will be held, (4) a portable shrine (お神輿 OMIKOSHI [palanquin]) is brought out of storage an prepared for carrying the KAMI around the neighborhood, and (5) booths selling food, drinks, and carnival-style goods, are erected at the MATSURI site. As you can imagine, the days leading up to the festival are very busy for all of those involved. The festival itself is an exciting, musical and colorful event, and is open to anyone who wants to participate in the fun and dancing. The climactic event during the MATSURI is when the portable shrine, which requires many people to hold it up, is carried to all the different neighborhood areas around the shrine. There are numerous MATSURIs held in Yokosuka, and there is bound to be one which occurs somewhere near where you live. Since early-2020, most of the festivals have been postponed or cancelled, due to the COVID-19 pandemic -- however, as of late-2022, they are starting-up again. Some good basic traveler & visitor information about Yokosuka, and how to learn about various events, is at the link below. In future articles, we will take a closer look at some of the enjoyable MATSURIs in Yokosuka.

written by Goodfield


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