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Monday, 20th July 2015
In Events In Japan,

Hamaori Festival is celebrated in Kanagawa prefecture

The city of Chigasaki in Kanagawa prefecture is the site of the annual Hamaori Festival today (July 20th).

Every year, the event is held on the third Monday of July, with sacred palanquins being brought from surrounding Shinto shrines.

These mikoshi, as they are known, are carried down to Shonan Beach and submerged in the sea to be purified in front of the gathered crowds.

It is thought the ritual dates back to 1191, when a shrine was washed away in the floods and later rediscovered by fishermen.

The festival is an incredible sight to behold, but those keen to see it must rise early, as believers set off with their shrines from 4am.

Around 12 to 15 people carry each of the palanquins from their places of worship and they slowly become a procession along the streets towards Shonan Beach.

By 7am all of the mikoshi have arrived and the purifying ritual takes around an hour, before the shrines are carried off by the devoted, dancing and chanting as they go.

The place where the submerging takes place is particularly important, as it is believed to be the spot where the original Samukawa Shrine was retrieved after it had been swept away.

In order to recognise the importance of the Hamaori Festival, the Japanese government has given it the status of an intangible cultural asset.

This designation means that every effort is made to respect the traditions associated with the festival and keep them going as part of the heritage of Japan.

Next year, the festival will be held on July 18th.

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Obon: What's it all about? (13th August 2014)