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Thursday, 22nd May 2014
In Events In Japan,

Tsunami-hit city holds traditional festival

A city in the Ibaraki Prefecture that saw extensive damage following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami has held a traditional festival for the first time since the disaster, with many people saying they are pleased to see the hustle and bustle return.

Hitachi-otsu no Ofuna matsuri is carried out once every five years in Kitaibaraki City, which is located north of Tokyo. Attendees traditionally pray for a good catch and safety at sea, although this year, it was the devastation that was on everybody's minds.

The event involves participants hauling a 15-metre wooden ship, atop which stands a portable shrine, through the city in a fashion that results in the entire structure swaying from side to side. Since the construct weighs in a six tons, it is an incredible sight to witness.

White smoke rises up from the base of the ship, with the strong volunteers hauling it along with only a rope - particularly impressive as they are not given further aids such as wheels.

The joyous day saw the streets around Otsu Fishing Port and Sawawachigi Shrine packed with party revellers hoping to get a good photograph of the extravagantly decorated construct.

Drummers and other musicians provided a musical accompaniment from the sidelines of the parade, as people hoped the festival would symbolise an end to the pain caused by the natural disaster that tore through the country three years ago.

A local resident speaking to NHK World commented that although there are fewer houses in the port city of Kitaibaraki, things are gradually being rebuilt and events such as the festival help to restore a sense of normality.

While tourists will have to wait another five years to witness Hitachi-otsu no Ofuna matsuri once more, they will no doubt be heartened by the fact Japan is home to many festivals and special occasions, with some examples being Gion matsuri, Obon and Sapporo Yuki matsuri.

Aiming to be in the country during a large festival will make your time here all the more magical.

Written by Mark Smith


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