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Cultural festivals give insight and open a window of interaction to a sacred piece of heritage. In Japan, festivals are celebrations of centuries-old cultural traditions. There is no shortage of festivals or celebrations in Japan but as each region has its own personality, you’ll discover there are types of festivals unique to each area.
The Taikodai festival, which is more than 270 years old, is the main event in Naka. A taikodai is a sort of parade float made to carry Japanese drums or taiko. A typical taikodai is up the seventeen feet tall, and weighs more than 5,000 pounds. Up to 150 people carry the taikodai in the procession, while two drummers perform atop it and other performers toss trinkets to the crowd, blow whistles or dance in place. Usually a neighborhood or block association pays to build and maintain its own taikodai, so there is great pride of ownership and community spirit in Taikodai Festival.
Crowds gather early along the route of the processions, not only to enjoy the exciting drummers, but to marvel at the artistry and craftsmanship of the floats themselves. Often evoking images of dragons and nature, the floats are composed of several parts, all of which hold great meaning and are painstakingly decorated. For example, the typical taikodai is topped with a canopy that represents the greatness of the universe, a dome represents the sun and large knotted ropes are draped to represent clouds in the sky. From these knotted clouds hang elaborate tassels, representing rain. Within this fanciful, mystical scene, the drummers work into a frenzy, often playing and responding to drummers on other taikodai.
For 2015, the Taikodai Festival will be held on July 18-19. To get the best few of the festival, be sure to note its route. The procession begins in the Nishimachi Kosaten intersection on the eighteenth and continuing on the nineteenth directly before the Kanda Jinja Shrine. The Kanda Jinja Shrine a must see place in its own right is home to the guardian deity Ki-mon, or “Demon Gate”.
Keep in mind that the neighborhood associations that build and maintain each taikodai can be very competitive. Members of each community carry the floats and follow along behind, and they are very likely to interact with the crowds of spectators, calling and hooting to them. Occaisionally arguments or fist fights break out between the groups, but overall the event is not dangerous for spectators. Most visitors are thrilled by the energy and enthusiasm of the celebration and enjoy being part of the excitement. This is a unique chance for visitors to really become part of the local culture.
If you are in the area the weekend of 18/19 July, you won’t be disappointed if you make time for this festival. Enjoy the floats, the crowds, the drumming and sample the local food from vendors along the way.
The Taikodai Festival can be reached in a 5-minute walk from Kaizuka Station (Nankai Main Line).
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