Abare Matsuri: A Festival of Grand Lanterns and Towering Torches

Guide to Japan Travel

Every summer local communities on the Noto Peninsula hold kiriko festivals. The particulars of the events vary greatly from one site to another, but they all feature the energetic carrying about of kiriko floats, which are decorated lanterns mounted on large wooden frameworks. The Noto kiriko festivals are a tradition dating back the Edo period (1603–1868).

The Noto kiriko festival season starts in Ushitsu, a seaside community in Noto-chō, which puts on a two-day event called Abare Matsuri, literally, “Get Wild” Festival, on the first Friday and Saturday of July. During the day on Friday, lantern floats are paraded around the town, and that evening the illuminated floats borne by teams of enthusiastic carriers circle the flames of five pine torches showering sparks from a height of seven meters.

This festival originated some 350 years ago when Ushitsu was suffering from an epidemic. Residents enshrined a branch spirit of Gozu Tennō, a disease-averting deity worshiped at Yasaka Jinja in Kyoto, and paraded a grand lantern to give thanks for the cure of those affected.

(Originally published in Japanese. Created in cooperation with Kanazawa Cable Television.)

Ishikawa festival Hokuriku Noto Peninsula