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Wajima Taisai Festival 輪島大祭

Multi-day celebration with towering floats, huge torches, and local smiles

The Wajima Taisai Festival is a series of four high-energy events held on four consecutive days in Wajima every summer. The festivities involve spirited processions of portable shrines called mikoshi and towering lanterns called kiriko. The kiriko, carried by dozens of people and adorned with local lacquer, are staples of summer festivals throughout the Noto Peninsula.

The festivities start with the Okutsuhime-jinja Shrine Festival, held on August 22. The festival reunites two kami (Shinto deities) in love, one from the mountains and one from an island just off the shore of Wajima. Local men carry a mikoshi containing the female kami into the sea to meet the male kami. They race the mikoshi to the sea, where children try to stop them. Locals say that the longer this tug-of-war lasts, the better the year’s fish catch will be. Their reunion is said to be challenged if the male kami sees men carrying the mikoshi, so the carriers wear dresses and makeup to disguise themselves as women.

The mikoshi and kiriko processions of the Juzo-jinja Shrine Festival, held on the evening of August 23, lead to a 10-meter-high torch. The torch is set on fire as the mikoshi is raced around it. When the torch burns down, it releases three amulets said to bring good luck, and participants scramble into the fire to catch them.

During the Sumiyoshi-jinja Shrine Festival, held on August 24, kiriko are spun violently and sprinted across the Shimbashi Bridge. The procession is accompanied by lively taiko drumming coming from every direction.

The last festival is the Wajimazaki-jinja Shrine Festival, held on August 25. Lanterns in the shape of shrimp and sea bream celebrate this fishing village's livelihood. This celebration again culminates with the falling of a large torch. If the torch falls towards the mountains, the next year is said to bring a good harvest, and if it falls towards the sea, the fish will be plentiful.