Release | Hiromi Wtanabe
The three biggest Andon Festivals in Hokkaido: Yakumo Dashi Gyoretsu makes the summer night hotter than ever
Have you heard about “The three biggest Andon Festivals in Hokkaido”? It suggests the three biggest Andon Festivals in Hokkaido. Andon colors the night of summer, and each festival which makes the town lively has long histories. *Andon is a form of Japanese lamp consisting of paper stretched over a frame.
I will introduce each festival, mainly about Yakumo Dashi Gyoretsu.
What is the three biggest Andon Festivals in Hokkaido?
The three Andon Festivals: “Numatacho Yotaka Andon Festival” in Numata-Cho, “Shiretoko Shari Neputa” in Shari-Cho, and “Yakumo Dashi Gyoretsu” in Yakumo-Cho consist “The three biggest Andon Festivals in Hokkaido.”
Numatacho Yotaka Andon Festival (Numata-Cho)
Settlers from Oyabe City in Toyama Prefecture brought their “Yotaka Andon Festival” to Hokkaido. “Numatacho Yotaka Andon Festival” started from 1977.
It is known as the only “Fighting Andon” in Hokkaido. The intense passion of seven meters height Andon fighting each other makes people excited.
2019 is the 43rd festival and will be on August 23 and August 24.
Shiretoko Shari-Cho Neputa (Shari-Cho)
Many samurai from Tsugaru who visited Shari as guards to Russian ships in the late Edo Period lost their lives due to coldness and hunger. A memorial monument was built in 1974 for consoling the spirits of the dead.
Because of that incident, “Hirosaki Neputa” in Hirosaki City, Aomori Prefecture, which was hidden to other prefectures has instructed as “Shiretoko Shari Neputa,” to hold the first festival in 1983. Since then, the festival continues until now as the relationship with Hirosaki City continues.
2019 is the 37th festival and planning to be on July 26 and July 27.
It all started from the place for young people to communicate with each other
Yakumo Dashi Gyoretsu in Yakumo-Cho started from only four bicycle-drawn carts with floats. The festival, which will be the 37th festival in 2019, now has become a significant festival with approximately 30 floats, over 2,000 participants in two-days festivals, more than 40,000 visitors from and outside the town on some years.
It started as the pre-event of “young people gathering,” and the significant members of the committee of Yakumo Dashi Gyoretsu are still young people from the town.
“Young people gathering” started to build relationships with several youth organizations in Yakumo-Cho and to promote their activities to residents in the town. They came up with an idea to make floats and parade during the pre-event to promote “Young people gathering” to people in the town. They made floats, learning by watching others, put them on four bicycle-drawn carts, and marched the town in a parade.
▲A collection of photographs was made to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Yakumo Dashi Gyoretsu. They also published collections on the 20th anniversary and the 30th anniversary.
▲The box-shaped float in the center with a mermaid is one of the early floats.
However, the first parade did not make a strong impression on people in the town, and it was a failure. They learned from that and to make festivals more lively with people in the town, made nine large floats and marched the town in a parade as one of the events from Yakumo Festival. It became the first Yakumo Dashi Gyoretsu.
As they hold the festival many times, organizations to participate increased to not only young people: neighborhood association, local companies, kindergarten, schools, etc. It gradually became more significant to one of the largest events of Yakumo-Cho which people outside of Yakumo-Cho also recognize.
Each group march in a parade with unique floats
There are only two rules to floats for Yakumo Dashi Gyoretsu.
1. Participate with Andon
2. Carry with human power
Each organization work really hard to create unique floats.
There are various shapes of floats: putting people like Hirosaki Neputa and Aomori Nebuta, characters from anime, figures of current topics, etc. There are not only various shapes.
▲Children dream of getting on the large drum and play it.
Smokes come out from noses of cows on the float of an agricultural organization. Floats with a character had movable neck and hands. Some stretch in three levels by making a nest of boxes. Once some group made a cat-shaped float which children can get in, it was really popular to kids, and a long queue was formed.
They host “float making seminar” to learn how to make floats. They invite the real Neputa specialist from Hirosaki and learn everything about sketching, waxing, and coloring of Andon-style floats.
▲One of the goldfish Neputa made by residents of the town who learned from the Neputa specialist at the float making seminar.
Students of art club in Yakumo High School participated last year, and students from art club in Yakumo Middle School participated this year.
They got together and formed a team “Y-Girls♡.” Students drew pictures of floats, using what they learned in the seminar.
Last year, “Y-Girls♡” performance members showed dancing performance as they carried floats made by students from the same school.
People are free to perform while they carry the floats; such as dancing and playing music. There are no rules, and people appeal to audiences with unique costumes and music.
They also gather votes from audiences every year and give awards to the winners of “Andon” and “performance.” Each group who participate make strategies to focus either one to win the competition.
▲Posters appear in many places in the town. They send the posters to Numata-Cho and Shari-Cho, and they do the same. They wish to form the festival together again as they did in the past with “Andon Festival Summit.”
To form the feeling of “home” to people in the town
The participants of Dashi Gyoretsu are basically organizations from Yakumo-Cho but some people from outside of the town help to carry floats and give performances. More than 30% of organizations have participated more than 30 times. However, most of the groups with fewer numbers of participations are also children of parents’ generation who have passed their spirits to the next generation.
Members of the committee and each organization are alike. Most people, such as people who participated in the “Young people gathering,” pass what they have to younger generations who now are the main members. People learn how to make frames, how to stick papers appropriately, how to use tools, and the interactions from the learning spread as the new relationships.
▲The station, which usually is very quiet, gets filled with people
Fund-raising becomes one of the factors to make strong bonds. They keep the tradition to gather 100 yen from each family for the festival since the beginning of it, but the objective is not just to raise funds.
People need to know about Dashi Gyoretsu to donate.
To do that, young people who involve in the operations of the festival need to be able to explain the meaning and the importance of Dashi Gyoretsu. So people naturally make thoughts about festivals and make them truly participate in the festival.
This was the secret of the long history of this festival.
Also, visiting each house turns into an excellent opportunity to interact with people who had never met before.
There are many branches of companies in Yakumo-Cho, too. Which means, there are many business bachelors and mothers raising children because of the transference who moved to Yakumo-Cho. Many people live in Yakumo to build Yakumo Tunnel for Hokkaido Shinkansen, too. Also, many people visit home in Yakumo-Cho to participate in Yakumo Dashi Gyoretsu.
Yakumo Dashi Gyoretsu works to connect people who live in Yakumo for a long time and people who recently moved to Yakumo. People just enjoy the festival without any interests. The festival tries to form the feeling of “home” to people in Yakumo-Cho. This is how Yakumo Dashi Gyoretsu is like to people in Yakumo-Cho.
▲People release jet balloons and pop the poppers at the finale.
“Yakumo-Cho gets a fever.” Andon with the love of people in Yakumo-Cho, mainly young people, towards Yakumo-Cho parades on July 5 and July 6 in 2019.
Why don’t you visit Yakumo-Cho to feel their love towards the town?
The three biggest Andon Festivals in Hokkaido
The 37th Yakumo Dashi Gyoretsu
July 5, 2019
6:30 PM Starting Ceremony at the parking of Yakumo-Cho Library
7:00 PM Start from Yakumo-Cho Library and finish at Yakumo-Cho Town Hall
July 6, 2019
7:00 PM Start from Yakumo-Cho Town Hall Finale at Yakumo Station
* Postpone to July 7th in the case of rainy weather
Contact: Yakumo Dashi Gyoretsu Committee Tel 0137-63-3131
Numata-Cho Yotaka Andon Festival
August 23, 2019
4:00 PM Furusato Specialty Fair Starts
5:00 PM Yotaka Andon Festival Starting Ceremony
6:30 PM Light all Andon, the start of Andon parade
7:45 PM Yotaka Andon fighting starts
August 24, 2019
2:00 PM Furusato Specialty Fair Starts
5:00 PM Yotaka Andon Competition Awards, Mochimaki (scattering rice cakes)
6:30 PM Light all Andon, the start of Andon parade
7:45 PM Yotaka Andon fighting Starts
Contact: Numata-Cho Tourist Association Tel: 0164-34-6373
The 37th Shiretoko Shari Neputa
Venues: Michi No Eki Shari, Shari-Cho Town Hall Square, Menuki Street, etc.
July 26, 2019
6:30 Neputa parade starting ceremony
7:00 PM Neputa parade
July 27, 2019
2:00 PM The 20th Neputa Festival
6:40 PM Neputa parade starting ceremony
7:00 PM Neputa parade
Contact: Shari-Cho Town Hall General Affairs Department Planning General Affairs Division Tel: 0152‐23-3131
* Contact to teach town about details of the festivals
Related Link- Yakumo Dashi Gyoretsu’s official website
Text / Hokkaido Likers writer Hiromi Watanabe
Photo / Yakumo-Cho Board of Education, Numata-Cho Tourist Association, Shari-Cho