I went to Chichibu to see the Chichibu night festival last week.
The festival is considered to be one of Japan’s three greatest float festivals and it has about 250,000 visitors every year.
Six floats decorated with wood carving, embroidered tapestry and lanterns are being pulled around the town by local residents from morning till late at night.
The excitement reaches its peak at night when floats climb up the Dango-zaka, a very steep slope, one after another. In addition to this, the fireworks display enhances the atmosphere.
It was so beautiful that it made you forget the cold weather in December.
What interested me most in this festival was the men who are standing on the front part of the floats, continuously shouting “hoo-ryai.” They are inclining over to the drawers, stretching out their hands widely or shaking their lanterns from side to side as if they were saying “come on!” or agitating people to excite.
“They are called Hayashi-te, or hurrayer.” An old man from a neighborhood explained to me. “And you know, they are considered to be gods as long as they are on the float.”
Wow, that sounds very interesting.
According to what this old man told me, “Hayashi-te”s need to have a purification ceremony before the festival. They take off their clothes and bathe in cold water to purify them. And once they step upon the float, they are respected as gods during this 2-days festival.
“Hayashi-te”s are selected strictly according to their behavior and contribution to their community. For local people, it’s a hero of the festival and a very honorable once-in-a-life-time role.
Here in Chichibu, gods seems to summon people to this festival very much.