Building a Dragon God (Photo Gallery)
Old and New Residents Come Together
In the Suneori Amagoi Festival, participants carry a giant model of a dragon god through the streets, making a new one from scratch every four years before the event is held. In 2013, the Japan Center for Regional Development awarded the festival—held in Tsurugashima, Saitama Prefecture—its grand prize for local events. Once every four years, a special ritual on the day of the festival transforms the beast into a dragon god.
Residents supply the materials for the dragon, which is 36 meters long and weighs 3 tons. This includes 70 mōsōchiku bamboo poles for the framework, 570 bundles of straw for the body, and kumazasa bamboo plants and other greenery to represent the scaly skin. The barley for the straw is now cultivated especially for the festival, as local farmers do not grow it any more as a cash crop.
As the festival was revived after a hiatus of over a decade and is only held once every four years, the required techniques can be hard to pass on to later generations. An additional problem is that many current residents have moved in from other locations. The festival committee tackles these issues with special training sessions, bringing longtime and new citizens together to mingle and learn the traditions.
It takes a day and a half for 300 residents of all ages to construct the dragon, which lives just half a day as a dragon god before being demolished and symbolically ascending to heaven. Yet, although brief, the two days that local people spend together every four years to pass on a time-honored tradition help to strengthen community spirit and pride.