The Exuberant Danjiri Festivals in the South of Osaka Prefecture
1 Dec 2020
Men take center stage in the Danjiri Festival, showing off their masculinity and bravery, and making even fed-up wives forgive and forget. Let’s find out more!
The Danger of Sharp Corners
Festivals featuring danjiri take place across the whole of the Kansai region, but those in Osaka Prefecture are particularly famous. Perhaps the most well-known is the Danjiri Festival in Kishiwada City, which takes place between September and October each year.
The highlight of the festival is seeing the four-meter-high, four-ton-heavy danjiri floats being pulled along by groups of more than 300 men and women. The ground rumbles as the huge floats are heaved along at high speeds, and the participants demonstrate superhuman strength as they deftly keep the float upright when it speeds around sharp corners. It is indeed impressive. Not anyone can join at the drop of a hat, however—each region has its own float and has protected the tradition of the festival for around 300 years. Without becoming a friend of the region and absorbing the “danjiri spirit,” prospective participants can be a hindrance and even injure themselves. This strict protection of tradition and the unity of each region no doubt contributes to the festival’s appeal.
At around 7 pm each night during the festival, lanterns illuminate each danjiri float, presenting a mystical sight. It’s a wonderful photo opportunity, so don’t head straight home after the pulling of the floats!
On the day of the festival, tour guide volunteers await outside the tourist information center in front of Nankai Kishiwada Station to guide foreign visitors around the festival. (Supported languages change each year.)
A Regional Shrine Festival
While today visitors tend to focus on the exciting pulling of the floats, the Danjiri Festival actually has its roots in a regional shrine festival. Let us visit the Kishiki-jinja Shrine, where the majority of the danjiri floats are located. (On the day of the festival, 15 different floats enter the shrine one after another) Built adjacent to Kishiwada Castle, the shrine itself boasts a history dating back more than 650 years. At the shrine’s shop (open from 9:00 to 16:00), visitors can purchase omikuji fortune slips, lucky charms, and other souvenirs. One unique practice at Kishiki-jinja Shrine is the tying of chigiri-no-ito, a piece of red and white string that is said to bring luck in matchmaking. Purchase the chigiri-no-ito, tie it to a special place in the shrine, and you might just meet that special person.
Kishiki-jinja Shrine (Japanese)
Kishiwada Has Much More to Offer than Just the Danjiri Festival!
At the Kishiwada Danjiri Kaikan, visitors can experience what it’s like to take part in the Danjiri Festival. In addition to videos of the festival played on a huge screen, there are displays of fashionable happi coats, recreations of old Kishiwada streetscapes, and of course a real danjiri float. While the sheer size of the float is overwhelming, don’t miss the delicate, artistic carvings that decorate it. It’s easy to understand why it costs one hundred million yen to build one! These magnificent structures don’t use any nails, and so are a must-see for fans of architecture and art. The museum covers a total of four floors. After seeing what it has to offer, head to the fourth floor for the most exciting part—the experiential area. Here, for a realistic festival experience, visitors can feel free to try the taiko drums and gongs used on the floats, dance along to a movie of the festivities, and take pictures of themselves on the roof of the danjiri. Please note that as of July 2021, the Kishiwada Danjiri Kaikan is temporarily closed.
In Kishiwada itself, a range of different stalls line the streets all year round selling Danjiri Festival merchandise. The Ekimae-dori Shotengai shopping arcade, right in front of Nankai Kishiwada Station, forms part of the route along which the danjiri floats are pulled, and visitors can find lots of different festival props, danjiri-shaped tissue box covers, accessories, and more. With Danjiri Festival posters on show all year round, a short walk through the city will put you in the festival mood.
Adored by locals, the rousing Danjiri Festival is well worth seeing.