This guest post is by Ginny Middleton, a second-year ALT working in the Noto. This festival is one of Noto’s most famous, so if you aren’t taking the July 2010 JLPT (Levels 1-3), plan to attend!
Noto Abare Matsuri 暴れ祭り(Fire and Violence Festival)
Arguably the best festival in the Noto, Abare Matsuri (the Fire and Violence Festival) will take place from 9 am on the first Friday and Saturday in July every year (2nd and 3rd July 2010 – same weekend as the JLPT)—although most of the best parts are after dark. The festival is held in the rural town of Ushitsu 宇出津 in the northern Noto peninsula and has been running for 350 years!
Visitors to the festival can see Kiriko lanterns (large, extremely heavy lanterns carried by up to 30 people and are unique to the Noto), food stalls, Mikoshi (the smaller wooden shrines), lots of drinking, etc.
The festival is to increase prosperity in the town but also doubles as an extreme display and test of masculinity. The festival is very popular with locals, travelers and foreigners, so expect reasonable crowds.
Priests first bless the main group of men before they begin their quest of drinking, chanting, parading the streets and damaging the Mikoshi as best they can until, at midnight, they take the Mikoshi into the Kaji River and continue chanting under a large burning torch as the sparks and ashes fall onto them below. Finally they take the Mikoshi to the main shrine where they are once again blessed by priests and the whole town rejoices.
If you do attend this festival, be aware that there are lots of very narrow roads and later at night, when everyone has had lots of alcohol, walking around the festival can become quite dangerous. Please stay a far enough distance from the Kiriko lanterns to ensure no one is injured.
Also note that there is very little parking and accommodation available in town so if you do drive, sleeping in your car or pitching a tent on the beach/at a park nearby is probably the best option.
Series of photos in order of the events: http://www47.tok2.com/home/garakutaya/ishikawa.qt/ABARE78.html