Toyama Cultural Heritage Toyama Cultural Heritage

UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage

Yama, Hoko, and Yatai Float Festivals

In 2016, 33 traditions were collectively recognized by UNESCO as the Intangible Cultural Heritage "Yama, Hoko, and Yatai Float Festivals." Three of these come from Toyama Prefecture: the Takaoka Mikurumayama Festival, the Uozu Tatemon Festival, and the Johana Shinmei Shrine Hikiyama Festival.

Three UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritages

The Takaoka Mikurumayama Festival

This festival is held on Yamachosuji Street and in Katahara-machi in Takaoka every May 1.
The Mikurumayama floats trace their origins to an imperial carriage bestowed by Lord Maeda Toshinaga to the locals upon the construction of Takaoka Castle in 1609. Through the collective financial effort and teamwork of the townspeople, the carriage was renovated into what became the first Mikurumayama float. According to legend, the gods ordinarily reside in the heavens, and descend to Earth for festivals. The central pillar on a Mikurumayama float serves as a landmark, guiding the gods’ descent. The ”flower umbrella” is meant as a decorative altar, and the doll provides a place for the gods to reside. The hokodome at the top features a different shape depending on which part of town owns the float. During the Sekino Shrine spring festival, the parade of Mikurumayama floats slowly travels around the area, accompanied by elegant musical performance, representing a parade of the descending gods.

Highlights of the Mikurumayama Floats

The floats feature a pillar in the center, with a round woven bamboo decoration topped with a “flower umbrella” decorated with chrysanthemums made of washi paper, and a large doll sitting underneath. The seven Mikurumayama floats exhibit unique features specific to each part of town. With their massive, glossy lacquered wheels and delicately built metal fittings, handrails, and decorative mounts, every aspect of the Mikurumayama floats bears spectacular testament to Takaoka’s traditional artisanry, including lacquerware, metalwork, woodwork, and dyeing and weaving techniques.

The Uozu Tatemon Festival

This festival is held in Suwa-machi in Uozu, on the first Friday and Saturday of August.
"Tatemon" refers to the floats used in this festival, which each have a 16-meter-tall pillar on top of a sled-shaped base. This pillar is outfitted with some 90 or so lanterns, in a triangular arrangement evocative of a boat’s sail. The top of the pillar features an octagonal motif and an image of the god Ebisu, believed to give the gods a place to descend. Placing the Tatemon float's lanterns high up is believed to usher in the gods of fishing. At Suwa Shrine, located along the coast, the Tatemon Festival is held every August. Locals parade seven Tatemon floats around town, as a prayer for safety at sea and as a show of gratitude for bountiful hauls of seafood.

Highlights of the Uozu Tatemon Festival

The Tatemon floats are held together only with rope - not a single nail is involved. This draws upon the net-tying techniques used by fishers. The Tatemon floats each weigh about five tons, and have no wheels, making it truly awe-inspiring to see them hoisted aloft by the crowd, as the 90 candle-lit lanterns on each give the event an old-fashioned beauty. The festival reaches its peak as people in happi coats rapidly spin the Tatemon floats around by Suwa Shrine, for a dazzling performance believed to have started as a way to make these offerings to the gods look more impressive.

Johana Shinmei Shrine Hikiyama Festival

This festival is held in Johana, Nanto every May 4 and 5.
Johana Shinmei Shrine Hikiyama Festival is held in the spring, with a parade of a mikoshi portable shrine around town, as well as shishimai Japanese lion dances and various other floats. This tradition dates back to the 18th century, as a way to welcome the gods.

Highlights of the Johana Shinmei Shrine Hikiyama Festival

The Hikiyama floats have eaves that can be folded back to help them make their way through narrower streets. One of the most exciting parts of the event is watching these floats make the tight turns around corners, with numerous onlookers eagerly waiting to see them come by, so they can enjoy the incredible sound of the Hikiyama floats’ wheels scraping the pavement as they turn, then squeaking as they roll away. The Iori Yatai floats proceed in front of the Hikiyama floats, with the performers inside playing music.
This festival features an old-fashioned traditional procession, where the mikoshi portable shrine is accompanied by the Hikiyama and other floats. The music played by the procession also provides a rich sense of local flavor. At night, the floats are lit up with lanterns, creating a magical atmosphere completely unlike the daytime portion of the festival.

Iconic Tsukiyama Rituals of Toyama Prefecture

Tsukiyama Ritual Explained

Tsukiyama Ritual reprecent mountains, and are made out of soil, stones, and other materials.
These are statuary and they don't move.
Futagami Imizu-jinja Shrine Tsukiyama Ritual (Takaoka City)
Every April 23, a Tsukiyama Ritual is built on the grounds of Futagami Imizu-jinja Shrine to serve as a temporary ritual and welcome the gods, and as a prayer for a bountiful harvest.
Hojozu-hachimangu Shrine Tsukiyama Ritual (Imizu City)
Early in the morning after the Shinminato Hikiyama parade, on October 2, a Tsukiyama Ritual is built, followed by Shinto rituals. The doll at the top represents a god descending from the heavens.

Iconic Hikiyama Festivals of Toyama Prefecture

Fukuno Yotaka Festival
Iwase Hikiyama Festival
The spring festival at Iwase Shrine features twelve Hikiyama floats paraded around town. When night falls, the floats are then crashed into each other, in a contest of strength.