The event takes place over 2 days. On the evening of the 8th (Yoimiya – literally the eve of the festival) and all day on the 9th October (Monmiya – the festival day) every year.
A little confusingly, there are in fact, two separate festivals that take place at the same place (Shikama area) on the same day at Ebisu-no-miya Tenman Shrine and Hama-no-miya Tenmangu.
Both festivals have a special feature. At Ebisu-no-miya, you can see "Daiba Neri' and at Hama-no-miya, you can see "Daiba Sashi'. You can see the skills of the neriko (people who carry the yatai - a portable shrine) and feel the power and spirit of the breath taking neri (procession of yatai).
I’m ashamed to tell you, that until recently I originally thought this was one single event all happening on the same day – now that’s really embarrassing for a Himeji resident…
We would like to share with you all that we know about the festival since we were once complete festival novices !
◆Daiba Neri is a must see!
The Ebisu-no-miya Tenman Shrine is located in the Shikama area which is south of Himeji. This is a 10 minute walk from the Sanyo Railway Shikama station. Or a 3 minute walk from the Shinki Bus stop called 'Ebisu Jinja Mae’. The festival take place every year on the same days the 8th and 9th October.
The most famous event is to see the 'Daiba Neri’, a cultural tradition of Himeji City when the shrine is raised up into the air by its bearers.
Normally during a procession the yatai which is transported on 2 wooden beams is carried on the shoulders of the shrine bears (neriko). However, for the Daiba Neri after being raised onto the shoulders of the shrine bearers with a shout, 24 of the strongest men swiftly move underneath the yatai and raise it above their heads taking the full weight of 2 tons meaning each person carries 80 Kg an amazing physical feat !
The Pre-Eve Festival
On the eve of the festival, three towns, Tokura, Shimizu & Oze perform the 'neri-awase' at Shikama Chubu Park where the yatai of the different towns jostle and bang with one another showing off their physical skills.
The Yoimiya – Eve of the Festival
The Daiba Neri takes place in front of the main building of the Ebisu-no-miya Tenman shrine.
The Monmiya - Festival Day’s
All the town’s participants gather in front of Sanyo Railway's Shikama Station and from there, a pair of yatai will move forward side by side. On the way, you can see the Daiba Neri performed at the junction of three roads in front of Mitsui Sumitomo Bank. (For tourists who do not have much time to spare, it is recommended to view the festival in front of Shikama station.)
If you have enough time you can accompany the procession of the yatai to the shrine. There you will see, the yatai coming into the Shrine one by one. Each town performs the Daiba Neri in front of the shrine's gate (Torii). Afterwards, you can see neri-awase at the space called 'Hamasaki' in front of the shrine's gate.
('Neri-awase' is when the yatai owned by different towns get jostling and bang against each another and showing off their physical strength.)
I always go to see the festival at this particular time!
If I can give you a few tips; don’t get too close to the parade because sometimes during the neri-awase the yatai might fall in an unexpected direction! Don’t stand in front of a wall or stone statue which could trap you against the yatai! And make sure you wear comfortable footwear!
When four yatai come together, they perform the neri-awase jostling and banging against one another and then enter the Shrine’s grounds. This show is then followed by the next four yatai performing the neri-awase.
Mikoshi Procession (Shinto ritual)
You can view four yatai processions with lights around the shrine's gate. One by one the yatai will leave the shrine. The whole thing will take around 1-2 hours.
A Local Woman's Recommendation Kiko
Kiko has loved the festival at Ebisu-no-miya Tenman for many years and wishes she was born a boy, so that she could take part. Her favourite part is actually the day after when she hears the hoarse voices of the men from all the shouting!
My recommended point
Of course, you cannot avoid the powerful 'Daiba Neri', but I just love the battle between Tsugura and Tamachi. They are rivals at the festival and I absolutely love the seriously heated battle of Neri-awase. It is what I look forward to every year.
◆4 highly recommended places and timings
At the very end of the festival, it is time for the neri-awase between the two towns Tsugura and Shimizu. In the evenings the yatai is lit up by lights that reflect beautifully in the river when they cross the Mukojima bridge. Though, sometime when the neriko are very tired, the lights are taken off the yatai to help ease their load! It becomes dark but that’s okay as well!
◆Sashiwakare at the end of the festival
I also like the 4 town's sashiwakare. (Sashiwakare is a good bye after the last neri-awase.) Here each yatai will go back to each town and there is a final speech by the Chair of the community association followed by continuous drumming. When I see this scene, I feel like crying because I know the festival has come to an end.
◆How to enjoy two festivals in one go including Hamanomiya!
I love festivals so much, so as soon as Ebisu-nomiya's neri-awase is over I will rush to see the Hamanomiya's festival. At Hamanomiya, they go into the Shrine quite late, so if you run, you will be just in time to see their festival too. At Ebisu-nomiya, they carry their yatai on the shoulder, but when they raise the yatai using their arms it’s called "Daiba Sashi'. It gives you goose bumps.
◆Where to eat and where to find a toilet on festival day!
On the actual festival day (Monmiya), all the local places to eat around Sanyo Railway's Shikama station are closed, because all the owners join the festival!
We have been to the festival for many years, but never come across any local restaurants open. (You still might find one. You never know!)
Eating Spot 1/ Food Stalls
Around Neriba in front of Ebisunomiya, you will find food stalls. There is also one special take away place only open on that day before the Shrine.
Eating Spot 2/ Eon Himeji River City and Surroundings
Eon Himeji River City which is located next to the shrine and big chain restaurants in the surrounding areas are open.
There are portable toilets set up on the festival day and also in the park next to the shrine. However, the numbers are limited, so we recommend you go to the toilet early in places like the train station.
Come and enjoy the festival!!!!
【Access to Ebisunomiya Autumn Festival 】
Sanyo Railway’s Shikama station or
“Ebisu Jinja Mae”of Shinki Bus.