To witness Danjiri Matsuri in Osaka’s Kishiwada is the sight of a lifetime. The aggressive, fervent and passionate festival of cart pulling brings the people together, all pulling floats with a feverish ardor; Kishiwada ceases to be made merely of streets and structures, and becomes a breathing, throbbing entity. Started nearly 300 years back by the erstwhile King of the region as a hope for good harvest, Danjiri Matsuri has evolved from simple cart pulling to a festival that takes on ornate floats, decorated meticulously with wood carving. Let’s dig a little deeper and try to understand what it is exactly that makes this Japanese festival one of a kind.
What one first noticed while observing the parade of this festival is perhaps its grandeur – 500 to 1,000 men pull floats by two ropes. Fast paced and boisterous, they pull the tonnes-heavy Danjiri with expertise, guiding the floats through turns without a change in its pace. This sight is majestic, and coupled with the chant ‘sorya! sorya!’, it becomes something transcendental.
But that’s not all. When looked at closely, the Danjiri reveals brilliant workmanship. The wood carvings these floats are adorned with are made with in painstaking traditional Izumibari. These carts have figures of not only people but also horses, flowers, trees, birds, beasts and abstract patterns. The designs are kept simple, yet remain grand.
When the sun comes down and the moon rises, this loud and bashing festival turns into a parade more serene, with lights and lanterns, adults and children pulling the Danjiri at a slower, more palatable pace. This night festival is ablaze with paper lanterns, showcasing a gentle, quieter element juxtaposing the value of daytime.
Nonetheless, in both the stages, the Danjiri Matsuri remains one of the most loved festivals of Osaka, and needless to mention, one of the most feverish. The floats, once representing the hope for good harvest, now symbolize the unity of the people of Kishiwada. If you’re visiting Japan in September, which marks the new year for the residents of this area, you must not miss watching this parade, for it undoubtedly is a sight to behold.
You’ll also like India’s Majuli festival.