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Danjiri Matsuri

Nothing gets the citizens of Kishiwada, Japan as riled up as Danjiri Matsuri! On the 14th and 15th of September for over three hundred years, each district of the city creates a danjiri, and parades and races it through the city streets.The festival was created by the lord of Kishiwada castle to pray for an abundant harvest. With thousands of participants and tens of thousands of spectators, it is easily one of the Osaka area's rowdiest festivals!

This festival starts off on the 14th of September at 6am to the sound of a blaring siren, which is the signal for all 33 danjiri teams to haul their danjiri at a breakneck pace through the city streets. Thereafter, they proceed through the different districts of the city, sometimes walking, sometimes running. This continues for hours while stalls along the roadside sell trinkets and food for the spectators. I was lucky enough to view the festival from the balcony of a Japanese friend, six floors up, which is a great way to see the real pandemonium of the event!

Just before the team starts to pull the danjiri, there is a slow chanting by each puller. A whistle is blown and the team springs into running! The chanting grows to a furious pace as the team shouts and yells.

The teams used to pull the danjiri are impressive enough, but when you see the actual danjiri come into view, you really want to peer in close. All the danjiri are made entirely of zelkova wood. Each danjiri weighs 4 tons, is 3.8m (12.5 feet) high and 2.5m (8 feet) high. Each is constructed by master woodcarvers and carpenters and the construction of a danjiri costs hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The thick pulling-rope can be up to 200m (650 feet) long and the pulling-team as large as 1000 people. The hauling and navigating of each danjiri is a tremendous undertaking and each person involved has a big responsibility.

Each danjiri is carved with intricate scenes (depicting past wars and heroes) and animals. Each one is a work of art.

The danjiri go fastest turning corners. This is accomplished by four men pulling sets of levers which cause the danjiri to skid, allowing the shrine to turn. This is the most dangerous part of the matsuri; when the dancers have the greatest chance of falling off the danjiri and the danjiri has the greatest chance of slipping out of control and colliding with the hapless spectators!
The privilege of dancing on top of the danjiri goes to the carpenters. They are called daiku-gata and each one creates his own style of dancing, varying on traditional themes.
Periodically, the danjiri teams will stop and trot or walk through the streets.

When a danjiri comes to the end of its run, it stops and all the participants chant, yell and then shoot confetti streamers into the air. They pick up one person of the crew on their shoulders and toss him up into the air over and over again.

After a while, they toss the confetti to the side and start up the run again!

When night falls the crews hang paper lanterns on the danjiri and parade slowly throughout the city as children lead the way and shout a steady, slow chanting.

To view video clips of this festival, click HERE!

That's it for Danjiri Matsuri!
If anyone has any questions about the festival,
all you have to do is email me!


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