Festival of motion and stillness reinstates hours-long drum procession/shoving match.

The town of Furukawa, in Gifu Prefecture, has become a popular travel destination for those looking to catch a glimpse of old-fashioned country living in Japan. Also known as Hida-Furukawa (because of its location within Gifu’s Hida region), Furukawa is often visited in conjunction with the nearby town of Takayama, with Furukawa being the even more quaintly quiet of the two.

But things are going to be quite a bit livelier in Furukawa this weekend, with the full-force return of the town’s most important event, the Furukaa Festival. The festival is comprised around dual themes of “stillness” and “motion,” with the latter represented by a fierce taiko drum procession performed by, as the festival’s official promotional video describes them, “half-naked men only in loincloths.”

This big-sound/little-clothing part of the festival is called Okoshi Daiko, or “Rousing Drums.” At around 8:30 in the evening, the procession starts with a float with a large drum at its top being carried into town. As it winds through the streets, though, teams of local drummers representing Furukawa’s individual neighborhoods rush out with drums of their own. It’s considered a great honor to keep your team’s drum as close to the main drum as possible, which is why these smaller drums are called tsukedaiko (“attaching drums”). But since every team wants that honor, a semi-controlled chaos erupts whenever a new team join the fray, bumping and jostling for position, with the total procession lasting past midnight.

▼ The crazy moment when a new team shows up and tries to force their way to the center with their drum.

Though the Furukawa Festival is usually an annual event, this year will be the first time for it to be held in its full form since 2019. During the pandemic years, the event was either cancelled or scaled back, and 2024 will be the first time in five years for the tsukedaiko teams to once again fully participate.

▼ The tsukedaiko groups also often perform some very daring feats of balance.

▼ The Okoshi Daiko route

As for the “stillness” part of the event, that comes in the form of the processions of yatai, or floats, which are held on both the day of and after Okoshi Daiko,

Nine ornately hand-crafted floats make up the parade, some of which serve as stages for performances by child kabuki actors or demonstrations of elaborate clockwork dolls that move without the need for electricity.

Things get especially beautiful after sunset, though, with the Yomatsuri, or “night festival,” part of the event, in which the floats are illuminated in the soft glow of traditional paper lanterns on the second night of the festival. This after-dark parade is also making its first return to the Furukawa Festival since five years ago.

The Okoshi Daiko will be held on April 19, and the Yomatsuri on April 20. The Furukawa Festival has been designated as an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property, and it’ll be good to have this unique part of the local culture back again after so long.

Related: Hida Travel Furukawa Festival website
Source: PR Times
Top image: PR Times
Insert images: PR Times, Hida Travel
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