Autumn Festivals in Kumamoto Prefecture

ByJustin Hanus
Aug 30, 2022

Autumn Festivals in Kumamoto Prefecture

Japan is famous for its traditional festivals, most of which involve parades, dancing, and performances. Every prefecture has its festivals, and Kumamoto is no exception. If you are in Kumamoto between September and November, you’ll have the chance to attend a few.

Kumamoto Castle Autumn Festival

Kumamoto Castle is the landmark of the city and the site of several small festivals. Every October, it holds the Castle Festival, consisting of various performances and delicious local treats on sale from food stalls. There are slightly different events each year, although the highlight is always the taiko performance in the evening (just as the sun begins to set) which involves a large number of drummers. Depending on the year, there may also be concerts, martial arts performances, Noh theater, dancing, and traditional arts. There are sometimes also interactive events, such as quizzes, tea ceremonies, and the chance to try on kimonos.

Izumo Iwai Shrine Autumn Yabusame Festival

The Yabusame Festival occurs at Izumo Iwai Shrine on Culture Day (November 3). Yabusame is a mounted archery ritual that has existed for more than 950 years. The archers are boys around the age of 15 who undergo hours of training to be able to shoot an arrow from a galloping horse. The boys and the horses wear traditional costumes, adding to the spectacle.

The Great Festival of Fujisaki Hachimangu Shrine

Another Shinto festival is the Great Festival of Fujisaki Hachimangu Shrine, which runs for five days in September. The main event is a series of parades that takes place on the last day of the festival. The first parade is a procession of portable shrines, the second a re-enactment of samurai, and the third involves Shinto priests riding decorated horses chased by their followers.

The last of the three parades has been controversial for several reasons. One is because the followers who chase the horses used to shout, “Boshita, Boshita.” Although the origin of this phrase is disputed, some believe it comes from “Horoboshita” — meaning “Japan destroyed Korea.” As this is upsetting to people of Korean descent, the followers have instead shouted phrases like “Dookai, Dookai” since 1990. The chasing of the horses relates to a Buddhist ritual of releasing animals to the fields (a ritual later adopted by Shintos). However, there is contention about whether it is cruel to chase horses during the festival.

Street Art-plex Kumamoto Extravaganza

You can visit the Street Art-plex in Kumamoto any time of the year, but there’s also a big annual event every October. Eight stages are set up at various downtown places where you can find different performances. Just wandering around will mean you come across all sorts of shows, from jazz musicians and theater performances to jugglers and calligraphers.

Since each of the above festivals is entirely unique, it’s worth trying to attend all of them if you’ll be in Kumamoto throughout the autumn. They’re a great way to experience something of the local culture.

Adriano, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

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2 comments so far

philippePosted on10:05 am - Aug 25, 2023

I would like to know more about the archery this october 2023 in kumamoto.

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