This Week: Wajima Taisai August 22nd-25th

Salutations! I hope this post reaches you in good and pleasant spirits. I’m writing to tell you about an amazing festival that is taking place this week in the Noto!

“Where is the Noto?”, you might ask. The Noto is the northern half of the Ishikawa prefecture. The Noto is split up into 3 sections: Kuchi-Noto (Entrance of Noto), Naka-Noto (Middle of Noto), and Oku-Noto (Depths of Noto). 

One of the biggest reasons to come to the Noto is the massive festivals that take place throughout it. In fact, if you have free time or cultural furlough this week, I’d recommend that you come to Wajima for the Wajima Taisai. As one of the premiere festivals of the Oku-Noto, you can count on having large amounts of merriment and long lasting memories. The festival comes highly recommended and is a must see event for JETs and visitors to Ishikawa. 

Where:

Times and Locations:
 
The Festival is a combination of the festivals of four different shrines in Wajima in the towns of:
Ama-machi (海士町): Aug. 22 (Wednesday) 16:00 – 23:00
Kawai-machi (河井町): Aug. 23 (Thursday) 15:00 – 24:00
Fugeshi-machi (鳳至町): Aug. 24 (Friday) 8:00 – 24:00
Wajimazaki-machi (輪島崎町): Aug. 25 (Saturday) 8:00 – 11:00

Resident Expert Tip #1: The festival starts getting exciting after 8:00pm
Resident Expert Tip #2: Find a Kiriko Team, follow them and you’re bound to have fun.

Highlights of Wajima Taisai:

  • One of the main highlights of Noto festivals are Kiriko. Imagine if you will, 10 meter tall lanterns that tower over you and are carried by at least 20 to 30 strapping men (and women!). On these lanterns are children or adults playing flutes or taiko drums, filling the narrow road that you’re on with merrymaking and sonorous booming. Oftentimes, it’s not unheard of to be pressed up against a wall in a narrow street while Kiriko make their way through or to be drafted into service of carrying a kirko with a celebratory swig of Shochu or Sake.
    Note 1: 8-23, Thurs: Groups of Kiriko will gather near the ocean, have a parade and burn tall stalks of bamboo.
    Note 2:  8-24, Friday: Many of the Kiriko traversing Wajima will spin madly at intersections with an ‘insane amount of vigor’, definitely a sight to see or experience.
    Note 3: Wajima’s festival Kiriko are especially distinctive (as compared with those in the other parts of the Noto) because of their famous Wajima lacquer coatings that are applied to the Kiriko.
  • Portable shrines called ‘omikoshi’ are carried through the town streets. With them comes the good natured and well known revelry that makes Wajima Taisai a famous and memorable event.
    Note: ‘Omikoshi’ carrying takes place every night of the festival.
  • On the first night (Wed, 8-22) you can see one of Japan’s best youth taiko groups perform, Yoranosuke. They usually perform right before the sunset. It’s best to show up around 5:30pm-6:00pm.
  • On the the last two nights of the festival (Friday, 8-24 and Saturday, 8-25), a special tall bamboo bonfire by the sea is lit, and Gohei (decorative strips of white paper used in Shinto rituals) that fall from the top of the structure are scrambled for by brave men wearing loincloths. It is believed that the person who catches a Gohei strip will achieve success in everything he does. It’s not rare for men to scramble into the burning embers of a just burned tower to grab a strip at a chance of wealth and good fortune.

If you’d like to forge your own path in terms of festival planning, make sure to take a peek at the Wajima Taisai event page: http://www.city.wajima.ishikawa.jp/kanko2/maturi/taisai.html
 
 
Transportation:
 
Depending on where you’re coming from, it’s quite easy to get to Wajima.
 
By Bus from Kanazawa:
Ø  Buses leave for Wajima from Kanazawa station roughly once every hour throughout the day, 7 days a week, from PLATFORM 1 from the East Exit (the main exit with the big wooden gate).  It takes 2 hours each way and costs 2200 yen one way (3950 yen round trip, if you purchase beforehand in the Station).  Pay when you get off in Wajima. 
Ø  Bus times from Kanazawa Station Platform 1 to Wajima: 7:20, 8:50, 10:00, 12:35, 13:35, 14:35, 15:35, 16:35, 17:35, 18:35, 20:10
Ø  Bus times from Wajima to Kanazawa Station Platform 1: 5:35, 6:40, 8:10, 9:10, 10:10, 11:10, 12:10, 14:00, 15:30, 16:40, 18:10
 
By Car from Kanazawa, Nanao, Anamizu, Tsubata, etc:
If you’re going by car, just take the Noto Yuryo toll road. Make sure to take the Anamizu Exit on the Yuryo and at the first intersection, take a left and then follow the road signs to Wajima (they’re all in English, so you shouldn’t get lost). The tolls from Kanazawa to Wajima cost about 1600 yen round trip (it’s much cheaper if you’re coming from anywhere in the Noto), so I suggest carpooling with some buds to keep costs down.  There is plenty of free parking at the Wajima Station.

Once again, for more information make sure to take a peek at the Wajima Taisai event page: http://www.city.wajima.ishikawa.jp/kanko2/maturi/taisai.html

Please come out and partake in the festivities, if you can!  It’s a great primer for Ishikawa’s festivals and also an excellent break from life at school or your BoE.
 
Happy Travels!

Alex will be a second-year ALT in Suzu. Where’s that you ask? Oh, it’s in the Noto. You know … the place with rice fields … and kiriko. That’s the one.

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