Tochigi City, Japan Announces its Biannual Tochigi Autumn Festival

It's Taking Place November 9-11, 2018 in Tochigi City, Japan, Just 70 Minutes North of Tokyo via Tobu Railways ... The Festival, featuring gorgeously decorated Dashi floats and Ohayashi festival music passed down from the Meiji Period, has been held every-other-autumn in Tochigi City since 1874.
By: Tobu Railway Group Ltd
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Decorated Dashi floats in Daytime Parade
Decorated Dashi floats in Daytime Parade
TOCHIGI CITY, Japan - July 17, 2018 - PRLog -- This coming November 9-11, visitors to Tochigi City, Japan, just 70 minutes north of Tokyo's Asakusa Station on the Tobu Railway line, are in for a special treat. This is the year of the biannual Tochigi Autumn Festival! The festival is held in historic Tochigi City, often called "Little Edo," because of its ever-present Edo period townscape and culture shaped by maritime transport. During the festival, the key draw are the elaborately decorated dashi floats in motion, that "magically" appear after dark. These dashi are enhanced by skillfully crafted karakuriningyō dolls - mechanical dolls operated on traditional watch technology, originally created during the Edo Period. The celebratory milieu is further elevated by traditional Ohayashi festival music -- with taiko drums and shakuhachi flutes, passed down from the Meiji Period.

Tochigi Autumn Festival History

The Tochigi Autumn Festival began in 1874, when people paraded with dashi floats to honor Emperor Jinmu, the first emperor of Japan (660 BCE), during a ceremony held on the premises of the prefectural office (located in the former Tochigi Town, currently Tochigi City). These particular dashi floats are called edogata ningyō dashi, because they were originally produced in the Edo period. Soon the entire town started to compete by showcasing dashi floats of Shizuka Gozen (12th C) during the Tenka Matsuri (Edo Sanno Festival) and other dashi floats featuring dolls produced by skillful doll makers, such as Shugetsu Hara III.

About the Edogata Ningyō (Float Dolls)

The dolls used for Edogata ningyō dashi vary, but mainly feature gods and heroes that appeared in Kojiki and Nihon-shoki (Japan's old historical records) or great figures and heroes from China. They also symbolize folk beliefs and legends.

Festival Highlight: Buttsuke

One of the festival's highlights is buttsuke, where multiple dashi floats face off by playing ohayashi, festival music, initiated by the call of each leader. All carriers brandish lanterns above their heads and shout to enliven the music. It is customary for dashi floats with out-of-tune ohayashi to concede. The invigorating calls are also unique, representing each town. If you go, join in and shout to your heart's content! The evening parade offers a chance to view a magical world, where lantern-illuminated floats, brighten the night festivities.

If You Miss the Festival

TheTochigi Dashi Kaikan or Tochigi Doll Float Museum reconstructs scenes from the biannual Tochigi Autumn Festival through installations produced with digital technology and actual dashi floats. It allows visitors to immerse themselves in the festival's spectacle and appreciate the beauty of the dashi floats even if their visit to Tochigi City does not correspond to the specific festival dates. The Tochigi Dashi Kaikan, founded in 1995, stores the dashi floats, which are tangible folk cultural properties designated by Tochigi Prefecture. Three dashi floats actually used in the Tochigi Autumn Festival are on permanent display and are rotated on a regular basis to allow visitors to encounter different gorgeously adorned, mobile dashi floats every time they visit.

What's New

This year, Daishi Kaikan's high-tech festival video was just updated during a two-month museum closure from January to the end of February 2018. Now, this digital introduction to the Tochigi Autumn Festival is available in several languages, enhancing the experience for foreign tourists.

Where to Stay

Even though Tochigi City is so close to Tokyo, to fully relax and enjoy the nostalgic atmosphere, you may wish to say overnight. Kanahan Ryokan, located on Kuranomachi Promenade, in the center of Tochigi City, is a historic inn established in the Anei era (1764-1780), during the Edo period. Renowned as a respite for the Kaninnomiya family -- a close lineage to the Imperial family, Kanahan also welcomed famed 19th Century British author, Isabella Bird. On the premises, traditional kura (storehouses) and other historic structures create an ambience of bye-gone days. You'll sleep comfortably on futons set atop springy tatami mat flooring and peer out at the city when you slide open your fusuma screens. Your meals, includingEdo Gozen (an Edo-style set menu - sample here), are prepared with local Tochigi produce and ingredients used in the Edo period but presented in a modern style. Special dietary requests should be noted at the time of reservation; so meals can be served according to your preference. Guest can also stay overnight without meals. This is a historic and classy inn, but it is also a place where you can visit casually. The okami or landlady/proprietress will personally greet you with a welcoming smile.

What to Buy and Where

Popular local souvenirs include traditional items made of colorful Japanese paper. Kezuka Kamiten is a Japanese paper shop located on Kuranomachi Promenade near the Dashi Kaikan. It is one of the five misegura -- storehouses consisting of a shop and residence together -- built in a row, which is even rare in Tochigi, where a number of storehouses remain. You can appreciate how paper evolved in Japanese culture just by observing the samples and holding them in your hands. You'll find customary engagement gifts and gift money envelopes used on celebratory occasions, as well as origami, small toys, paper balloons, and more.

More Information

For more information on the Tochigi Autumn Festival, check out the Tochigi City TouristAssociation's website.

Get to Tochigi City using TOBU Railways

The TOBU Railway Group is a major Japanese corporate conglomerate consisting of approximately 90 companies. The Tobu Railways cover the longest operating distance in the Kanto region, and lead to many tourist attractions including: Asakusa and Tokyo Skytree in Tokyo; Nikko and Kinugawa Onsen, famous as a world heritage and hot springs; the Tatebayashi and Ashikaga area known for its beautiful blooming flower fields; plus Kawagoe and Tochigi City two places where the atmosphere of the Edo era lives on.

Explore destinations around Tobu Railway Group at TOBU JAPAN TRIP:

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