Saijo Matsuri is a grand festival held every October in the city of Saijo in Ehime Prefecture. In this harvest festival with over 300 years of tradition, enormous hand-carried floats called danjiri and mikoshi are presented to local shrines. There are more than 150 in the city.
This website introduces Saijo Matsuri, with a focus on the Isono Shrine festival in the Nakano neighborhood, the biggest in scale of the many festivities in the city. There are 81 danjiri and mikoshi offered to Isono Shrine, making it the largest festival of its kind in Japan and worldwide.
In addition to danjiri, mikoshi, and taikodai float parades, Saijo’s fall festival features many traditional Japanese attractions like shishimai (lion dance), yakko-gyoretsu (a dance parade performed in traditional costume), and kagura (ancient music and dance).
At the heart of these activities are the danjiri, great wooden floats standing approximately 5m tall and weighing 700kg. These structures are shaped like house frames and carried by 15-20 revelers during a two-day parade through the city to the beat of taiko drums, bells, and festival songs. Danjiri are typically named for the neighborhood that they represent.
Danjiri floats are decorated with carvings depicting Japanese motifs, famous figures like Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and scenes from historical literature such as the Legend of Three Kingdoms. Some danjiri are also painted.
At night over 100 lanterns are affixed to each float, and the light from the candles creates an ethereal atmosphere completely different from the daytime. Watching Saijo Matsuri is like seeing a picture scroll unfurl and come to life before your eyes.