【Access to Matsubara-Hachiman Shrine】
5 minutes walk from Sanyo Railway” Shirahamanomiya”station
(From Himeji station,8 minutes/ JPY300 for one way)
The "Nada Kenka Matsuri" takes place each year on October 14 and 15. It's famous all over Japan for its fierceness and spirit! Particularly, when you see the 3 main omikoshi (portable shrines) bang against each other, you might wonder if they're actually fighting, but it's said that it represents when they used to rub ships together to scrape the shells off their hulls. It's also thought that the harder the omikoshi bang into each other, the more the will of the gods is being fulfilled. The clashing of six yatai on the 15th is a powerful event that must be seen to be believed.
The Matsubara Hachiman Shrine has three local Shinto deities and each one of them is carried inside. On the 15th, the three Mikoshi clash together on the grounds at the foot of Mt. Otabiyama.
<Yatai, Yattai, Yassa>
Each of the seven villages has its own Yatai. They are the treasures of the villages made by the skill and dedication of the finest craftsmen with precious wood, sculpture, lacquer, and gorgeous ornaments imported from all over Japan. These Yatai are clashed against each other.
The Shishi (lion) Yatai carried by the 44-year old Matsubara village men. Its role is to purify the evil spirits so that the festival can conclude safely.
It is lifted up and then let drop to the ground with a powerful thud, but the beating of its drums must never stop.
(That looks like it really must hurt...)
The three main omikoshi are called "Ichinomaru", "Ninomaru", and "Sannomaru" and the year's "Neriban" (the shrine that can engage 'clashing') is chosen in order each year from among the 7 participating districts. The carriers of the omikoshi are also divided up by age group. The youngest men carry "Sannomaru" and the veterans carry "Ichinomaru".
"But don't the younger men have more strength?", you might ask.
Wrong! Carrying the omikoshi requires technique too! You can't survive two days of carrying them on strength alone. Experienced men have technique + power + enthusiasm... it's a clash of many things!
During the festival, the men hold something that look like pom-poms. These colorful pom-poms attached to blue bamboo sticks (the color of their village) are called "Shide"('she-day').
According to a local man, "We use 'em to direct the Yatai. When you're carrying the yatai you can't see around you, so we use the "shide" to show which direction to go in."
Aha! That makes sense!
The same local man told me a lot of other great things... but I forgot them...(lol)
If you're interested, please go to the festival and ask someone there!
Highlight of the Nada Festival! Many people want to see the yatai-shaking action, go to the arena. Many people ask: "Do they sell tickets for the seats?" No, unfortunately not. On the day of the 15th, the arena bleacher seats that spread out around the arena, are all inherited by the local families for generations. It's almost like a holy site and if you want to sit there, you'll need to be invited by one of the locals.
Since there's nowhere to watch from, lots of people try to stand and watch from the walking paths, but that's really dangerous! Especially for newcomers, many people try to stand against the walls and watch, but that's the most dangerous place because the path is so narrow and you could easily get crushed! Stay where you can escape in all directions. Most importantly, listen to the instructions of the festival officers carrying the "shide" (pom-pom rods). (If you have any questions, be brave and ask them too!)
Did you know that on festival day, people wear an arm amulet to wish for the safety of the yatai carriers and the success of the festival?
There are amulets provided by the festival groups and ones given as gifts. Wives and girlfriends receive amulets from the shrine and give them as presents to pray for the safety of their husbands and boyfriends. Isn't that sweet!
The dazzling yatai gathered at the shrine. The sight of the yatai coming through the shrine gate, with the shouting and the shaking is so powerful. You can't miss it!
I thought, "Can those giant yatai make it through those gates? How will they do it?" The way they handle it is to remove the ornamental tops from the yatai before carrying it through the gate! Normally everyone gets excited to see the shaking of the yatai, but it's also amazing to see them stopped while they remove the top, and to hear the sound as they're dragged through!
The yatai and omikoshi are brought all the way up to the top of Mt. Otabiyama. That's your chance to really see them up close!
When you see them up close, you'll notice broken parts and scars that tell the story of what they've been through.
While you're waiting for the yatai and omikoshi to be carried up,
I recommend eating some food from the many food stalls up there!! So please walk to the top of Mt. Otabiyama and check it out!
Castella cake, fried chicken, ice cream...
I love the food stalls like that, but once in a while I want to try something different! But I don't want to walk too far away from the festival area!
For that, I recommend Komatsuya's amazake (sweet sake)! It's refreshing and goes down easy and the taste spreads out in your mouth. I just love that gentle sweetness! Please try it out!