Iwate #6 – Morioka Sansa Dance (盛岡さんさ踊り)

Last year I posted about the Tohoku Sandai Matsuri, the 3 great festivals of the Northern Tohoku Region: Aomori’s Nebuta Matsuri, Akita’s Kanto Matsuri, and Miyagi’s Sendai Tanabata Matsuri. This week I want to explore two more festivals in this area, starting with Iwate Prefecture, Morioka City’s Morioka Sansa Odori.

The festival, which features over 10,000 taiko drummers and dancers parading through the city, is held on August 1st to 4th every year. Because of the large numbers, it’s even listed in the Guinness Book of World Records! “Odori” means dance in Japanese, and that’s exactly what happens. Legend has it that the festival began when a demon, being punished for his evil deeds by a priest, was made to pledge to no longer be evil by placing his hands on a rock and imprinting them there. That’s actually what “Iwate” means… rock hand!The locals rejoiced that the demon would no longer bother them by dancing around the rock. And that’s how the festival came to be! Of course, it’s grown just a bit since then…

I haven’t been to this festival, as it was over by the time I swung around to Iwate on my Sandai Matsuri trip, but I’d really love to see it live one day. It is very close to Morioka Station, near the castle, so tourists can get there easily, even from Tokyo. I urge anyone with time to visit there to see the show!

Iwate #3: Chuuson Temple’s Konjikido (中尊寺金色堂)

Chuuson Temple is Hiraizumi City’s most famous attraction, and was etablished in 850 AD as a temple in the Tendai Buddhist sect. Konjikido, the subject of Iwate’s third postcard, is one of the two original temple buildings still remaining from that era. The entire building is covered in gold, and is actually inside another building behind glass windows for protection. The building in the postcard is actually the outer building, and the stone steps leading to it. The gold-leaf covered Konjikido is inside.

Unfortunately, photography of the building is prohibited, but Chuusonji’s Official Website provides pictures and more information on Konjikido as well as the rest of the temple buildings in several languages. For those interested in learning more, I highly recommend watching this video, which provides a tour and information on the temple, and its World Heritage Site status, in English. It is very informative and interesting, and provides not only the history of Chuusonji, but also of the surrounding area.

I got the chance to visit Chuusonji on my way from Miyagi to Yamagata on the We Love Japan Tour 2015. I enjoyed the temple, but ended up not going inside to see Konjikido since it was a bit expensive, and you can’t take pictures anyway! But I did get my postcard picture of course!

postcard and picture

The steps up

Chuusonji’s main temple hall

A replica of the golden hall done in bright yellow chrysanthemums!