Gifu #4: Takayama Festival (高山祭)

Gifu’s fourth postcard depicts a famous festival here in Japan in Takayama, which is held once in the Spring and once in the Fall every year. It is ranked as one of the three most beautiful festivals in Japan, and you can read more about it here.

Since I went to Gifu in summer, I obviously didn’t get to see the actual festival. However, there is still a number of ways to experience this festival even if you can’t be there during the two times a year it is being held!

One such is at the Yatai Kaikan (Float Museum) next to the Hachiman Shrine. About 4 floats of the usual 11 are displayed on a rotation at this museum, with descriptions of each and little stories about them. Other festival items, including historical items no longer used, can be seen, and a video about the festival can be watched.

Another place to experience Takayama festivals is at the Matsuri no Mori Festival Museum which displays life-sized replicas of each of the 11 festival floats, including working karakuri marionette dolls, which are a big part of the festival. These dolls are usually operated by hand, but at the museum they are operated mechanically so as to give many demonstrations throughout the day.

Since Matsuri no Mori is not in walking distance of the city (most take a bus, about 15 minutes), we chose to see the Yatai Kaikan. Also, we were able to see a few of the buildings where the floats are kept throughout the city.


One of the areas floats are kept


Yatai Kaikan Entrance


Inside the Yatai Kaikan


One of the bridges featured in the festival

 

Takayama is a really beautiful area. Of course, it’s ideal to go during the actual festival to see it in person, but if that is impossible, there are still many ways to enjoy the festival! You can read more about my trip to Gifu and Takayama here!

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Gifu #2: Sarubobo Doll (さるぼぼ)

Gifu’s second postcard features the bright red Sarubobo Doll. Sarubobo (which translates to “baby monkey”) are red, faceless, human-shaped dolls traditionally made by grandmothers for their granddaughters as dolls, and for their daughters as charms for a good marriage and good children. Traditionally red, now they come in all colors and sizes, and can be found all over Gifu, but especially in Takayama and the Hida region. The white kanji on the tummy is “HIDA”, while the writing on the little purse its holding is “Omamori”, the general name of amulets, charms or talismans sold at shrines.


A giant Sarubobo by Takayama’s Hachiman Shrine

These were found in the shop at Gujo Castle


Now you can buy many different colors, each of which has different meanings. But I still got a red one… I like the traditional ones the best!

You can read more about Sarubobo at wikipedia here. There is also a Sarubobo Shrine in nearby Gero Onsen. I didn’t have time to go to Gero, but you can see some pictures of this shrine here! It looks really neat! Next, Sarubobo can be bought all around Gifu prefecture, but if you want to try your hand at making one, join a course at Hida no Sato in Takayama! Read more about that here. Finally, you can read more about Sarubobo and my Gifu trip here!