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Things to do / Traditional festivals

Hanamaki Festival

A spectacle that set a Guinness World Record for the largest display of mikoshi (portable shrines) at a single location four years ago will take place again on just as large a scale this weekend at the Hanamaki Festival. Don't miss seeing throngs of people in happi coats energetically hoisting more than 100 mikoshi to the festive chants of "Wasshoi!" ("Heave ho!") in and around Kamicho in the city of Hanamaki, Iwate Prefecture.

However, that impressive display is only one component of the festival that is said to be over 400 years old. The three-day event also includes a parade with a dozen brightly lit fūryū-dashi (floats topped with elaborate decorations) that will be on the move through the streets each day of the festival, which runs on Sept. 13, 14 and 15.

The festivities won't end there. Participants will perform gongen-mai, a folk dance which symbolizes deities taking on the forms of lions to bring good luck, on Sept. 13; and another parade will feature hooded drummers performing a shishi-odori (deer dance) while pounding on instruments slung low on their waists on both Sept. 13 and 14. (Yuki Yamauchi)