Shinmiya-San Fall Festival: Gallant Samurai Revive in Kikuchi, Kumamoto
In mid-October every year, Kikuchi City of Kumamoto Prefecture hosts an autumn festival during the festival period of Kikuchi Shrine. The local residents friendly refer to the autumn festival as “Shinmiya-San,” in which the city square, the main festival venue, and the commercial district in the center of the city will be filled with a very lively festival mood.
The shrine festival parade will be followed by other marchers consisting of various local groups from around the town. Some marchers carry a festival float, while others play drums and present various other performances as they go through the town.
One of the most notable groups joining the parade is that of samurais each carrying a flag with the name of one of the 24 generations of the clan head of the Kikuchi Family. The colors of the armors they wear are slightly different to one another.
Other great features of the festival include dance performance by small kids wearing adorable outfits and traditional performance art such as “Onmatsubayashi Onnou.” You wouldn’t want to miss one single moment of these spectacles.
This year, the festival featured a festival float representing a white dragon, which is believed to be the guardian of Kikuchi City. Generally, this white dragon appears each year at the Kikuchi City summer festival, and parades around the shopping streets decorated with Tanabata-themed ornaments.
Special audience stands are set up at some spots around the shopping district during the festival and the marchers stop at each of them to show off their performances to the audience. When the audience greets the performers with applause, the excitement spreads throughout the venue.
Yet another feature of the festival worth a mention is a marching group of small kindergarten kids, who all impressively dance to their fullest.
Kikuchi Shrine serves as the home site of Shinmiya-San, the autumn festival. Here at the shrine site, there used to be the main keep tower of Kikuchi Castle, the residence and the office of the generations of the lord of the Kikuchi Clan. The area around the castle is widely known as a great viewing spot of cherry and azalea flowers and attracts many visitors especially in spring.
*The Kikuchi Family produced 24 generations of samurai clan heads who ruled and played historically important roles in Higo (the present Kumamoto Prefecture) and other areas in Kyushu from around the 8th to 16th century and is still admired and respected by many people in Kikuchi.
Every year on the 13th of October, a religious Shinto ritual is offered and Onmatsubayashi Onnou, the traditional performance art, is dedicated to the Kikuchi Shrine. Then the march by local groups is held on the 15th of October.
Onmatsubayashi Onnou has been handed down since around the 16th century in Kikuchi City as traditional performance art. It is performed and dedicated to the shrine as a form of prayer for peace. It was designated as a nationally important intangible folk cultural asset. You can see the performance at the noh stage founded in front of a high school at the foot of the hill where the shrine is located. The tree in front of the noh stage is compared to a feudal noble figure in whose audience noh plays used to be performed in ancient times.
The march of 24 Kikuchi samurais is open for the general public to join. If you want to register yourself as one of the samurais and march in a samurai armor, visit Kikuchi Tourist Association and make an application, which is accepted from around August every year. (Costume rental and other fees may apply.) Information: Map
What after the Festival?
One of the popular destinations in such a bus tour of Kikuchi is Melon Dome, one of the most famous roadside stations in Kyushu. At Melon Dome, you can purchase fresh vegetables and fruits harvested in Kikuchi City, sweets and other local specialties. Information: Map
Kikuchi Onsen, the hot spring area in Kikuchi, is also widely known. It would be a great idea to stay overnight at Mochizuki Ryokan, Kikuchi Grand Hotel or any other hotel or inn in the hot spring area and relieve your fatigue of the day in a hot spring bath.
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