Otawara Yatai Matsuri (Mikoshi Float Festival)

A couple Sundays ago I remember being woken up early in the morning by heavy rain and strong winds battering my window. I was invited to go to the Otawara Yatai Matsuri (Mikoshi Float Festival) that day which happens each year in April. I heard that those who take part in the festival practise all year round for this one event. There are festivals all year round in Japan, and this particular festival was a drum beating festival, and I knew a couple of friends taking part.

I stayed in my apartment all day waiting for the weather to calm down, but there were no signs that it would stop anytime soon. When it reached around four o’clock in the afternoon, I made the decision not to go to the event. So my friends drove there without me. The rain suddenly stopped. The clouds disappeared. The sun in full view with blue skies. There I was sat in my apartment on my own regretting my decision! Typical! I tried readying myself for a chilled Sunday evening in my apartment, but my mind was constantly thinking about the festival. A couple hours later my neighbour offered to take me to the festival. So we drove to Otawara and managed to catch the festival just in time.

When we parked up and got out of the car, I could already hear the drum beats from a distance. The streets where we were were dead. It wasn’t until we reached the end of the street and turned a corner, that we saw people crowded around the beautiful Mikoshi floats. The sound of the drums were so infectious, and there was a constant drum beat from start to finish! It felt like I was in some Japanese anime, the atmosphere was incredible.

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The Mikoshi floats

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Each float seemed to have their own unique design and drum beat, and this was accompanied by flute playing. I was really impressed with the intricate details on each float all carved from wood. I made it just in time for the drum battle. Each float would take turns to be moved to the centre of the circle to show off their drumming skills. This was then followed by a duo battle, in which another float would be moved into the centre to have a drum-off. We were urged to go into the middle to support each float by shouting and waving our arms to the beat. The energy was intense!

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Duo battle

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Final battle

We then waited for the final battle to begin, and all the floats gathered in the middle to create an epic drumming battle. Me and my friends were all lucky enough to get into the centre of it all, and we were screaming and jumping throughout the entire thing. I can’t even describe how amazing the energy was. The lights, the beat, the screaming. Definitely a highlight of Japan I’ll never forget!

I ended up going back to my apartment that night on such a high! Thankful that I didn’t miss such an amazing event. Looking forward to attending more festivals like this throughout the year!

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