The city of Fukushima, about 300km north of Tokyo, hosts an unusual matsuri that involves parading through the streets Japan’s largest ‘waraji’ straw sandal, which at 12 metres in length weighs in at 2 tonnes!
The festival originally finds its roots in the Mount Shinobu Dawn Procession, traditionally held in January, and is dedicated to the Ashio Shrine, to wish for physically strong legs.
The two-day festival begins with the high priest from Ashio shrine blessing the sandal
and a military parade of guys dressed up in traditional samurai warriors, with the cavalry coming from the town of Soma on the Fukushima coast, which is famous for its horse-riding tradition
The first day of the festival is marked by ‘odori’, or street parading, with the waraji being carried up and down the street, with its carriers doing their best to get the crowds to cheers and agg them on as much as possible
Their great trick is spinning the massive sandal around on its centre, which basically involves the guys in the middle standing still and the guys on either end runing as fast as they can so the whole thing spins 180 degrees on its axis…of course,the faster they can do it, the louder the applause!
As well as the main waraji, there also three smaller ones carried by kids of varying ages
including a baby one for the really young kids to carry!
Of course no festival in northern Japan is complete without a a huge crowd (literally thousands!) of accompanying ‘odori’ dancers from every district in the city!
All in all, a festival that truly lives up to its reputation as one of the great matsuri of northern Japan! A shame that, as usual, hardly any foreigners were to be seen…