Aug 09, 2018 Event Hiroshima City

Sumiyoshi Festival 2018, One of Hiroshima’s 3 Biggest Festivals!

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In Hiroshima, there are three biggest festivals called Tokasan Festival, Ebisu Festival and Sumiyoshi Festival. Sumiyoshi Festival is long loved by locals, which goes by the name “Sumiyoshisan”. The festival takes place according to the old lunar calendar, and is held every year for two days around July 25th. In 2018, it took place on July 26th (Thurs) and the 27th (Fri). I’ll show you the look of the festival from when I visited on the first day, the 26th!

What is Sumiyoshi Festival?

The official name of the Sumiyoshi Festival is Nagoshi-no-Oharae (Great Purification of summer). The purpose of the ritual is to burrow the power of the shrine’s god to cleanse yourself of the impurities that have built up over time in your daily life. You can regain a stable and pure heart, and get back to being healthy and active in body and mind. It also shows the lifestyle sensibilities of people in Japan to avoid sickness and misfortune even during the hot summer. When it’s halfway into a new year, it’s a great chance to take another look at your lifestyle and everything around you!

Recommended Things to See in Sumiyoshi Festival

Chinowa Kuguri

Long ago, diseases were often prevalent during the summer in Japan. For that reason, a ritual was born in which large circular gates of pampas grass were made. The grass is said to hold cleansing powers. By going through the ring, you can prevent sickness and misfortune.

Even today, going through the chinowa has the meaning of cleansing yourself of the impurities in your heart, and being able to spend the second half of the year without sickness or misfortune. The wide grass ring placed at the shrine entrance is 3 meter.  When standing in front of the chinowa, you enter from the left, and pass through making a figure eight. Don’t forget to bow in front of the ring!

Doll Floating

In Japan, there’s an old belief that by entrusting your sins and faults to a doll, you can cleanse your soul and body. The paper doll  called “hitogata” is used as a representation of yourself to cleanse soul and body at Sumiyoshi Festival.

At the doll reception, you receive a small envelope and a doll. Then, you write your address, name, etc. before paying a fee for the ceremony. As long as it is above ¥500, the ceremony fee amount is optional. If you make a donation of ¥1000 or more, you’ll receive a card as a token of the ceremony.

After writing everything you need to on the envelope, you write your name and age on the doll. Then, you rub the paper doll from head to toe, and finally blow your breath on it.  By doing this, the dirt and impurities that have accumulated on your soul are transferred to the doll.

Finally, you hand the doll to the “miko” (shrine maiden), and you’re done. After the gathered dolls are purified by shinto priests, they are set adrift down the river. At Sumiyoshi Shrine, everyone is respectful of the environment, so water-soluble paper is used for eco-friendly.

If you hang the ceremonial card that you can receive for donations of ¥1000 or more in your living room or other area, the safety of your house will be protected.

Hiroshima Kangen-sai

Sumiyoshi Shrine was originally a shrine for the god of the sea. Since Hiroshima has many rivers and a deep relationship with water, a ritual called the Hiroshima Kangensai takes place with large wooden row boats called “kogidenmasen.” The festival starts with the rowers climbing into the boats wearing matching working coats and traditional white socks. They then bring on board portable shrines.

Boats with the shrine’s priests also have the role of sending dolls that have been purified to float down the river. The boats depart from the main river facing Sumiyoshi Shrine at around 6:00 p.m. in the evening. They head up north, and pass through Hiroshima Peace Memorial and Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, then turn around at Aioi Bridge and transfer to Motoyasu River. At around 8:30 p.m., they return to the shrine. When the sun sets, lights are lit on the wooden boats that continue in the darkness, and heavy sounds of taiko drums and strong singing voices echo all around.

Children’s Kagura Performance

During the two days, one day includes a children’s kagura performance. kagura, a performance offered to god with hoping good health for the rest of the year and to safely get through the hot summer. The actors, flute players, and taiko players who appear in kagura are all children around eight years old.

The sight of these children making big use of their small bodies and dancing on stage in gorgeous costumes is quite breathtaking. Children’s kagura is a popular Shinto ritual held every year, where the children adeptly deliver difficult, long lines and draw in the audience.

Scenery of Japanese Culture

You could say that portable shrines with dazzling decorations are a symbol of summer festivals in Japan. Also, food stands lined up near the shrine make a unique scene special to summer in Japan.

In additional to joining the festival, you can also experience Japan’s summer with your eyes, ears, and nose.

Sumiyoshi Festival, Where You Can Feel God Nearby

Sumiyoshi Festival has long been considered by people in Japan as the way to safely get through summer, but when you actually participate for yourself, you’re made to think anew about your own actions and spirit.

You think about your own being and the existence of god in each your actions, and can return to daily life with peace of mind. You can really feel just how close the presence of god was to Japanese ancestors. Of course, there’s also the enjoyment that comes from food stands lining the streets, the sounds of taiko drums from row boats, and the easy going sounds of boats from kagura to really make you feel the summer of Japan!

Please head over to the Sumiyoshi Festival at the turning point of the year!

Sumiyoshi Festival 2019 Information

Sumiyoshi Festival
Address Sumiyoshi Shrine (map)
5-10 Sumiyoshicho, Nakaku Hiroshima
Closest Station 1min walk from Funairi-honmachi
Date  7/16(Tue.), 17(wed.) in 2019
*6/14,15 in the old calendar
Website Official Website (Japanese)
Tripadvisor (English)

 

Read also: What To See At Sumiyoshi Festival, One Of The Three Festivals Of Hiroshima!