Hamaori Festival: Unique Festival of Dawn Feeling the Sea Breeze
Begins at Daybreak…
Around 4 a.m. on Marine Day in July (It was July 18th in 2016). The seashore of Chigasaki City became bustled with people even before the time of daybreak. This is the Hamaori Matsuri, a festival that is particular to this region.
Portable shrines (A vessel that temporarily carries the deity which usually lives in the shrine) from Samukawa of Chigasaki City, the south part of Kanagawa, gather at Nishihama Coast of Chigasaki City (Map) once every year. People go into water while carrying the portable shrines to perform the ceremony of “misogi”, a purification ceremony.
The sound of the whistle that leads the procession of the portable shrine, the clashing noises made by the portable shrines and calling voices of men; the harmony of these sounds creates a mysterious atmosphere.
Origin and History
This festival originated in the late Edo period. One story goes that in 1838, a portable shrine of Samukawa Shrine, a famous shrine in the area, was lost in the river by accident. A fisherman, who was fishing in the area, coincidently found the portable shrine and reported it to the shrine. It is said that the festival started to show appreciation to this fisherman.
After that, while repeatedly experiencing both increase and decrease in the number of participating shrines and the change in the festival date, it’s still being held today. The number of participating shrines in 2016 was 34 shrines. Prior to the year 2000, the festival was quite ferocious, but in recent years, it became rare to see portable shrines sunk down under the water which resulted in increasing the number of female or child participants.
- 4 a.m. – 7 a.m. : Shrines enter the venue of the ceremony. This is when you can see portable shrines going into the sea (depending on the sea condition, portable shrines may not enter the sea).
- Around 7 a.m. : Entrance of all portable shrines are complete and the ceremony starts lead by Shinto priests.
- Around 8 a.m. : One by one, portable shrines get on their way back to their shrine. This would be another chance for you to see portable shrines going into the sea.
- Around 9 a.m. : All rituals of the festival are completed.
Tips to Enjoy the Festival
It is recommended to stand by the waterside when the portable shrines enter to see them going into the sea up close. If you get hungry, the area is filled with many stalls so you can pick up some food to enjoy eating on-the-go. During the ceremony, it gets crowded so if you want to have a clear view of the ceremony, it is recommended that you get to a good spot early and keep the position.
Even though the ceremony is held in the morning, intense sunlight of summer is expected so please do not forget to take some measures such as wearing a hat or hydrating yourself in order not to suffer from heat stroke. When you feel hot, don’t push yourself; go rest in the shade. It might be a good idea to bring a picnic sheet with you for when you get tired and want to sit down.
Also, large-scale traffic regulation will be imposed on the coastline that day. Normal bus lines will be canceled and instead, temporary buses will be running.
There comes a chance when portable shrines start getting on their way back to their shrines. If you move early to wait outside of the rope of the path that connects the beach and the coastline, you will be able to see the overwhelming scene with a line of portable shrines. Each portable shrine is decorated differently and the way they are being carried is also different from each other so it can be interesting to compare them.
If you happen to visit Kanagawa on Marine Day, why not wake up early and enjoy this unique festival while feeling the sea breeze?