Designated as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Property
The Hikiyama rituals of the Tsuchizaki-Shinmei shrine festival were listed as an Intangible Cultural Property by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on November 30, 2017 (December 1, 2017 in Japanese time). It was categorized in “the rituals of Yama, Hoko and Yatai” with 32 other festivals from the 18 prefectures which were already designated as national intangible cultural properties of Japan.
In addition to the Hikiyama rituals of Tsuchizaki-Shimmei Shrine, the “Yama rituals of Kakunodate festival” from Semboku City and the “Yatai rituals of Hanawa festival” from Kazuno city were also designated from Akita prefecture at the same time.
The category of “the rituals of Yama, Hoko and Yatai” includes the festivals of cities and towns throughout Japan in which huge sculptures called Yama, Hoko, and/or Yatai travel around the area. The three sculptures, Yama, Hoko, and Yatai, are classified according to their objectives: Yama and Hoko are portable shrines where gods stay and travel during the festival, and Yatai is a decorated wheeled cart that celebrates the arrival of the gods.
Yama and Hoko are succeeded in various forms. Some are succeeded as a combined form of Yama/Hoko and Yatai, while others are completely independent of each other. There are also festivals that only use Yatai but not Yama or Hoko.
The rituals of Yama, Hoko, and Yatai are practiced with wishes of happiness by removing or calming evil, vengeful spirits that cause the spread of epidemic diseases out of the town.
Designations of Hikiyama rituals of the Tsuchizaki-Shinmei Shrine festival
1990 Selected as the first candidate for “Akita Prefecture’s Intangible Folk-cultural Properties”
1993 Designated as “Intangible Folk-cultural Property” of Akita City
1994 Designated as “Intangible Folk-cultural Property” of Akita Prefecture
1997 Designated as “Important Intangible Folk-cultural Property” of Japan