Posted: 17/09/2021
Category: Japanese Festivals

Danjiri-matsuri in Kishiwada, Ōsaka, is a festival that emanates force, especially impressive thanks to the sculptures on the walls of the floats. It takes place on 14th-15th September. It was originally a harvest observance performed after the model of Inari-matsuri, an event dedicated to the God of Agriculture, who was at the same time a protector of armorers and merchants. As with any agricultural ritual, Inari comes down from the mountains in spring only to go back to his permanent abode in late autumn. The period when Inari is in the plains coincides with the harvest rituals, which made the Lord of the Kishiwada Castle in Ōsaka, in 1703, invite the deity of Fushimi-Inari-jinja from Kyōto to pray for protection and rich crops.

The peculiarity of Danjiri-matsuri is the speed at which the 32 floats called danjiri run in the streets, to the drum beats and amongst the shouts of those who haul them. The privilege of dancing upon the upper roof of each danjiri belongs to Kishiwada’s local carpenters, each dancer having his own style.

The famous Hikōki-nori (“Airplane-dance”) is performed with the arms spread wide and standing on one foot. I must admit I never experienced such a thrilling event. I was at the same time afraid. I realized that the curb at the intersection where I stopped to take photos was very dangerous, but I stood stock-still, unable even to take my eyes off those who were dancing on one foot. Besides, I was concerned about their lives, especially at the sudden corner turning.

The danjiri floats are made of zelkova wood, weighing about four tons and reaching up to almost four metres high. They display intricate carvings on the outer walls, which feature animals, past fighting scenes and heroes, as well as Buddhist and Shintō scenes due to the idea that Inari is venerated in both religions. The parade of the floats does not start before their being separated in two groups, each of them passing by one of the large shrines involved in the festival, so that the pullers might submit themselves to the purification ritual. It is performed individually by priests and miko.

Since the floats do not transport deities, it is not necessary that they be purified. As long as the participants are subject to the purification ritual, the floats can participate in the parade after just halting in front of the shrine. It was at such moments that I could leisurely admire the skill of each detail engraved upon the outer walls.

Letter to Japan
UMC Bucharest 2020
p. 49-51

©Angela Hondru

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