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Hitachi-Otsu Ofune Matsuri fishing boat festival is Kita-Ibaraki's biggest festival, held only only once every five years on May 2 and 3 as the grand spring festival of Sawawachigi Shrine (佐波波地祇神社) in Otsu-cho, Kita-Ibaraki, Ibaraki PreHeld by local fishermen to pray for abundant fish and maritime safety. These photos were taken on May 3, 2019.
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Unique Shinto festival where they drag a sacred fishing boat across land instead of water. The boat has no wheels. All other boat festivals have the boat sailing on water, but not this one.
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On the May 2 festival eve, the boat is pulled from east to west along 1,200 meters in the center of town without the portable shrine aboard.
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On the May 3 main festival day, the boat is dragged along the same route west to east with the portable shrine and shrine priests aboard.This boat is here at the start point on May 3, 2019.
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White ropes to pull the boat on the road.
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The bow has this shed for the portable shrine to be loaded on. Festival was designated as a National Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property (重要無形民俗文化財) in 2017.
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Boat is 15 meters long, 4 meters wide, and weighs 5 tons. It becomes 2 tons heavier when the portable shrine (1 ton) and crew and musicians board.
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The ofune wooden fishing boat is painted with local fish.
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My video of Kita-Ibaraki's Ofune Matsuri boat festival.
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Back of ofune boat.
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This festival was originally a portable shrine procession on the sea via boat going around the bay. But the boat's start point was filled in, so the boat procession was then held on land instead since 200 years ago.
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The festival started to be held every 5 years from 1975. The boat has to be repaired after each festival and the money could not be secured more often than every 5 years.The boat is normally displayed at a fishing museum named Yo-soro (よう・そろー) in Kita-Ibaraki.
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The festival used to be held by local fishermen, Now held by Hitachi-Otsu Ofune Matsuri Preservation Society (常陸大津の御船祭保存会) with most of the men being fishermen or their descendants.
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Paitning of a monkfish, a delicacy of Kita-Ibaraki.
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The boat rests on wooden pallets called "soroban." It is dragged on a bed of soroban pallets.
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The festival originally used an actual fishing boat. But now this wooden boat was built especially for the festival.
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Sardines
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On May 3 from morning, they parade the mikoshi portable shrine bearing Sawawachigi Shrine's god for maritime safety.
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The festival participants belong to different fishermen's groups indicated by their shirt. They are from a group called Fudo-maru.
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Thank You Club
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This was the first Ofune Matsuri to be held in the new era of Reiwa.
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Group photos in front of the boat.
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Removing in the boat railingsbefore people boarded.
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Most boat musicians are local kids.
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Boat musicians and crew board the boat via ladder.
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Looks like the boat captain.
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Boat crew waiting for the portable shrine to be loaded on the boat, which then becomes a "sacred boat."
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After being paraded around town all morning, the portable shrine arrives near the boat.
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After being paraded around town all morning, the portable shrine arrives near the boat.
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The boat crew welcome the portable shrine before it is loaded aboard.
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The portable shrine is loaded on the boat.
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Ahead of the boat, wooden pallets called "soroban" are laid on the road for the boat to be dragged on.
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They use about 100 soroban wooden pallets (ソロバン) made of Japanese oak tree, a hard wood. Each weighs 20 kg.
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Before dragging the boat, they violently rock the boat side to side.
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Boat is pulled by a 200-meter white rope, 7 cm thick. About 200 to 300 people pull the boat.
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When dragging the boat, the men have to run over the wooden pallets and take care not to trip and fall.
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They drag the boat 20 meters at a time. After each drag, they have to move and place the pallets ahead of the boat. The route is 1,200 meters long, and it takes 5 hours to reach the end.
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Dragging the boat over the wooden pallets.
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Ofune being dragged over wooden pallets.
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Pallets are ready for the next drag.
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There are men on both sides of the boat who rock the boat before the drag. When the boat moves, they hang on to the boat.
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After the drag, they pick up the pallets and lay them in front of the boat on the road ahead.
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Narrow streets make it crowded.
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The boat hull has small center ridges that keep it standing upright. It's also designed not to topple over when rocked.
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Three shrine priests are among the 40 people onboard. It's pretty rough to be rocked often. Motion sickness is possible.
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The boat is tilted to one side when it is dragged. It creates less friction and makes it easier to drag.
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Picking up the pallets.
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The friction between the boat hull and pallets makes it smoke each time the boat is dragged. The pallets are scorched.
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The route has one 90-degree corner where the boat is turned. This is a festival highlight and many people crowd this corner.
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They turn the boat by dragging the stern of the boat. They had a rope tied to the rear part of the boat.
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Turning the boat 90 degrees.
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They turned the boat 90 degrees in one drag.
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Getting ready for the rest of the straight route.
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This corner is the most crowded spot. Many people leave after seeing this corner turn.
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Shuttle bus back to JR Otsuko Station. Shuttle bus stop was near the start point a few hundrd meters from the corner.
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JR Otsuko Station
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JR Otsuko Station has its entrance modeled after the Rokkakudo Pavilion on the Izura Coast.
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JR Otsuko Station platform.
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JR Otsuko Station platform.
   
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