A Day of Samurai, Kendo, Taiko, and More at the Matsumoto Castle Festival

Every November on Culture Day, Matsumoto City puts on a huge city-wide festival that features all kinds of Japanese cultural goodies ranging from taiko drum performances to martial arts competitions, to the main event: the samurai parade around downtown!

Crowd and samurai parade participants gathered at Matsumoto Castle for the official festival kick-off ceremony

Crowd and samurai parade participants gathered at Matsumoto Castle for the official festival kick-off ceremony

The samurai parade starts off in Matsumoto Castle’s inner garden, where over one hundred people a dressed in the traditional wear of samurai, soldiers, court officials, and there’s even a princess. A taiko drum performance (video below!) and a speech by Matsumoto’s mayor officially kicks off the festivities before the parade procession marches out into the streets.

The samurai procession gathering at Matsumoto Castle before heading out

The samurai procession gathering at Matsumoto Castle before heading out

Taiko performance in the castle garden

Taiko performance in the castle garden

One of the most popular members of the samurai procession ;)

One of the most popular members of the samurai procession 😉

Besides the samurai parade and taiko, there were numerous other street performances that included not only traditional culture but also contemporary culture like street dancing and magic shows. I was lucky to run into this dance group in the photo below who performed a traditional women’s dance in beautiful blue kimono:

Traditional dance with autumn leaves

Traditional dance with autumn leaves

One of my personal favorites out of the festival events was the Kendo and Naginata Competition. It took place right in the castle garden, so you could get up close and watch the dueling, hakama-clad contestants show off their swordsmanship and naginata (aka polearm) skills.

Dueling kendo contestants

Dueling kendo contestants

En Garde!

En Garde!

There are so many events going on during this festival that it was hard to see them all (there’s also a big tea ceremony, Japanese archery competition, etc.), but if you missed something this year, you’ll always have another chance next year on November 3rd! It’s also a great time to plan a trip to Matsumoto because the autumn leaves are out in full color as well 😉

For more event info, see the event page or follow us on Facebook (we also have a Facebook event listing).

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