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Day 5: Takayama


One of the highlights of Takayama is the Colonial Williamsburg of Japan: a collection of historic buildings gathered into a folk village, called Hida no Sato.

collage of Hida No Sato folk village.

Takayama is famous for its matsuri (festival), dating from 1690, which is ordinarily held in the spring and fall. It's renowned as the third-best festival in Japan (the Japanese love to make these precise lists). But they were coincidentally having a special mini-festival while we were there, to commemorate the 21st century, and no doubt boost tourist traffic.

The main feature of the festival are a dozen 15-foot-tall floats. During the day, they're put out on the street for preparations.

Getting one of the floats ready

Some of them are used during the day for marionette performances of ancient Japanese tales. That's the puppet at the front of the float on the left, standing out on the beam.

Marionette performance at Takayama matsuri A crowd gathers near one of the floats.

Then at night, the floats are lit by lanterns (some with candles, some electric) and pulled through the streets in a parade.

A float pulled through the streets, lit by lanterns.

The procession is led-off by a dragon dance. Children ride on top of the floats, playing traditional instruments.

Dragon dancers at the Takayama matsuri Children riding on the float

The pulling isn't easy, but the men are fortified with sake.

Men pull the floats through the streets of Takayama

Sometimes the kids help out on the pulling.

Young float-puller.

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2001 Joel Abrams. All rights to images reserved.