One of the odder local festivals is the Yamabe “Ofune Matsuri”. It is also one of the oldest, and in need of a decent historical explanation. Maybe a more native resident can do the honours?
Each local district (used to be called villages, but with recent electoral/legislative boundary re-drawings there aren’t any more villages in Japan…hmmm) in the Yamabe area of (eastern) Matsumoto houses a ‘boat’ (“fune”). This wooden treasure – they are all over 300 years old – is wheeled from its stable to the area’s main shrine (Susukigawa jinja) through the local streets. Within the ‘boat’ are a couple of drum (taiko) players and one or two flute players. The upper deck is where the young cocks of the neighbourhood display their machismo, yelling encouragement to the guys pulling & steering the omnibus. No brakes. No safety net. No girls involved (sensible!).
Needless to say, all participants (male) are legless. Which probably helps negotiate a top-heavy, two-wheeled, three-ton chariot around tight corners & under live wires. This event starts with a sake breakfast at 6am – by the time the boats meet up, half-way to the shrine, red-faces and confident swaggers are de riguer. If you like, this is a kind of mini-version of the mental festival they have in Osaka, where the floats ricochet off buildings & occasionally topple over. Here, you can get up close to the participants, share a swig or three, and still be no wiser as to why there are ancient boats in landlocked Nagano!
Jolly good fun; photographer’s must.
When? In Golden Week
How to get there – bus/taxi to Satoyamabe & walk (10 – 15 mins).