Date Samurai Matsuri: Hokkaido

By Denis Plamondon

Photos by Sandra D’Sylva and Denis Plamondon

*

Opening of the 2009 Date Samurai Matsuri

Opening of the 2009 Date Samurai Matsuri

*

Memento of the Bushido (The Way of the Warrior)

There are many festivals in Japan and finding one in Hokkaido isn’t hard! Japanese enjoy celebrating past events and observing important anniversaries. Hokkaido is no exception to this fervor. When planning a trip to Hokkaido, consider that many events run during the peak summer season, thus the next question on your checklist may easily read: are their festivals worth the effort of traveling so far a field?

This is a question we asked locals at Lake Toyako about the Date Samurai Matsuri (1-2 August 2009). Some responses were uncertain and unenthusiastic. One senior lady we met said with a quiet smile: “when you’ve seen it once …” Nevertheless, trusting a good recommendation and our own intuition, we set-off by train for the town of Datemombetsu … and, we were pleased with the outcome of this 2-day festival. The events of the first day conveniently took place in front of the Datemombetsu JR train station, from 6 pm onwards. Citizens, visitors and contributors alike were greeted by the organizers in typical festival fanfare during the opening ceremnoy, including a sacred blessing and sutra from a visiting monk. A representative from each of the 10 participating floats gregariously introduced themselves to an equally receptive crowd. As the procession of floats, dancers and performers paraded down the town’s main street, onlookers were treated to the usual aromas and resonances of summer in Japan – whiffs of yakitori on the grill, the drum beat of taiko 「太鼓」 – always a great way to stimulate the senses and nourish the soul.

The following day consisted of a historical re-enactment of a samurai procession preparing for battle. The event was short from about 3-4 pm, and held in a large park called “Date Rekishi no Mori” (伊達歴史の森) some 20 minutes walking distance from the JR station. (Nonetheless, it was prudent to arrive early to secure a good spot.) This colorful and imposing production involved as many actors in traditional costume as there were spectators. Armies of samurai (侍) and heavily armored cavaliers paraded across the makeshift battlefield to congregate atop a hill, while an array of banners and flags fluttered in the background and gunmen on bended-knee fired shots into the air from vintage weapons. A contingent of samurai warriors, wearing outfits from the “bushido” (武士道) era, followed with their squires and fabulously adorned horses. Each took a turn to enter the arena and demonstrate their respective skills. The ceremony reached its climatic finale with the lighting of a bonfire and cries for the triumphant return of samurai armies from the supreme commander known as the sodaisho (総大将)or shogun (将軍).

*

Order of cart presentation in the parade of 2009 Date Samurai Matsuri

Order of floats in the opening parade during the 2009 Date Samurai Matsuri

*

Pushcart at the 2009 Date Samurai Matsuri in Hokkaido

Pushcart-float at the 2009 Date Samurai Matsuri in Hokkaido

*

Black and white banner at the 209 Date Samurai Matsuri in Hokkaido

Colourful banners at the 2009 Date Samurai Matsuri in Hokkaido

*

Warriors with their red banner at the 2009 Date Samurai Matsuri in Hokkaido

Warriors in vibrant red at the 2009 Date Samurai Matsuri in Hokkaido

*

Archery at the 2009 Date Samurai Matsuri in Hokkaido

A group of archery apprentices choreographically take aim with the grace inherent to this sport. 2009 Date Samurai Matsuri in Hokkaido.

*

Re-enacting old gun shooting at the 2009 Date Samurai Matsuri in Hokkaido

Re-enacting gun shooting at the 2009 Date Samurai Matsuri in Hokkaido

*

Personalizing the "Bushido" or "Way of the Warrior" in the 2009 Date Samurai Matsuri in Hokkaido

Personalizing the "Bushido" or "Way of the Warrior" at the 2009 Date Samurai Matsuri in Hokkaido

*

A proud and young samurai? 2009 Date Samurai Matsuri in Hokkaido

A proud and young samurai at the 2009 Date Samurai Matsuri in Hokkaido

*

Cavalry and ground army presentation at the 2009 Date Samurai Matsuri in Hokkaido

Cavalry and ground army presentation at the 2009 Date Samurai Matsuri in Hokkaido

*

Inspection and presentation of orders at the 2009 Date Samurai Matsuri in Hokkaido

Inspection and presentation of samurai sections at the 2009 Date Samurai Matsuri in Hokkaido

*

Please share your comments with me:

*

Next article: Discover the Geothermal Region of Noboribetsu

*

Advertisements

Datemombetsu Samurai Matsuri

*

Archery Demonstration at the Date Samurai Matsuri, Datemombetsu Hokkaido

Archery Demonstration at the Date Samurai Matsuri, Datemombetsu Hokkaido

*

The town of Datemombetsu held a colorful annual festival in early August. The Date Samurai Matsuri enacts scenes of the Bushido era and it is worth the journey. Please come back soon for a report on this particular event.

*