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Friday, Dec. 2, 2011

Chichibu festival among top three for floats


Staff writer

Japan loves top threes. Since the Edo Period (1603-1867), when it's said Confucian scholar Hayashi Shunsai traveled and wrote his great work "Nihon Sankei" ("Three Views of Japan"), magazines, tourist associations and local governments have captured the public imagination with their own interpretations of gold, silver and bronze.

On this week's agenda, is the trio of celebrated "float-based" festivals; the Chichibu Shrine Night Festival, in mountainous western Saitama, earning it's berth alongside Kyoto's Gion Matsuri and the Takayama Matsuri in Gifu Prefecture.

With drum beats and flutes to the fore, six huge floats will display their gilded wood carvings, tapestries, and of course — it takes place in the evening after all — lanterns. They will weave through the crowds and toward City Hall, where a 2½-hour firework display will celebrate their arrival in style.

Before the main action, visitors can grab traditional food and drinks — warm amazake, perhaps — and enjoy some of the side-street offshoots. Many people will head to the station, where there is a big screen for those too slow or unlucky to get a spot along the main route of the parade.

To complete a tour of the "big three" float festivals, though, you'll have to wait until next year. The event in the Gion district on July 17 is part of the monthlong summer celebration; while the party at Takayama's Hachiman Shrine marks the autumn harvest on Oct. 9 and 10.

Chichibu Shrine Night Festival will be held in Chichibu, Saitama Prefecture, on Dec. 3 and 4. The float parade (7 p.m. till 7:30 p.m.) and fireworks display (7:30 p.m. till 10 p.m.) will take place Dec. 4 only. Take the Seibu Ikebukuro Line from Ikebukuro Station to Seibu Chichibu Station, then take the Chichibu Line to Chichibu Station.


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