Outline of the Hikiyama Festival

The Hikiyama Festival of Tsuchizaki-Shinmei shrine, known as the “Tsuchizaki-minato Hikiyama festival,” is practiced every year on July 20 and 21 during the annual festival of the Tsuchizaki-Shinmei shrine. The Tsuchizaki-Shinmei shrine is where the guardian god of the port city of Tsuchizaki is enshrined.
The festival is famous for the dynamic Hikiyama floats and soul-stirring festival music of “Minato-bayashi.” The high-spirited performances put the local people in high spirits.
The festival dates back to 1704 when the portable shrine, “Mikoshi,” was dedicated by a sailor from western Japan.
Parts of the festival’s history are recorded in documents such as “Yuki-no-Furu-Michi” (1789) by Tsumura So-an and “Unbeaten Tracks in Japan” (1878) by Isabella Bird, a British explorer.
The number of Hikiyamas (portable shrines transported on a wheeled cart) dedicated from each town differs every year. Recently, more than twenty Hikiyamas have shown up during the festival.
The structure of the Hikiyamas are inspired by the shape of “me-oto rock” (the pair of rocks which is said to represent a couple), with a black sheet of cloth covering the wooden bones. It consists of two sides which completely differ from each other: on the front is strong, masculine decorations with samurai dolls depicting a historical scene, and on the other side is a gentle, feminine stage for musical performances that is decorated with satirical motives reflecting contemporary society.
Here we witness the solemnly protected and inherited Shinto rituals, sounds of Minato-bayashi that is counted among the three greatest festivals of music in Akita, strong chants by the Hikiyama conductors, the highly-skilled techniques used to control the Hikiyamas, and dynamic performances by the Hikiyama bearers and dancers. The Hikiyama rituals of Tsuchizaki-Shinmei shrine is full of attractions that express the pleasure of summer festivals in Japan.

Akita City Folk Performing Arts Heritage Center