Ishizaki, located in Nanao City, is a vibrant fishing town on Nanao Bay, where the exciting Hôtô Festival is held annually.
The Hôtô Festival was once a summer festival of Issaki Hachiman Shrine, in which floats in the style of Kyoto’s Gion Festival were paraded through the town.
However, the floats were burned repeatedly in big fires, and the festival was stopped for many years. When the town was vitalized in the middle of the Meiji period and given a lantern float from the town of Ushitsu in northern Noto, the festival was restarted as a festival to pray for a huge harvest and a good catch of fish, as well as a ritual for extinguishing fires. Subsequently, lantern floats were carried around the town as a festival ritual, and the event took on its modern-day form.
The lantern floats are 15m high and 3m wide, and weigh 2 tons; they are the largest carrying lanterns in Japan. A hundred people wearing headbands, white cloth belly bands and white tabi (split-toe socks) carry the floats while shouting energetically.
Children in yukata (summer cotton kimono) and braided straw hats decorated with flowers play bamboo flutes, drums and gongs. Floats are marched vigorously along the narrow streets accompanied by the music. The well-controlled, lively movement of the floats is the highlight of the festival.
In the evening, six floats gather in Dômae Square, a resting place for the lantern floats and the portable shrine. After the parade, the festival reaches its climax at dusk. A float with large characters and dynamic pictures of samurais appears in the dark.
When a drum is hit once, the lanterns are raised, and a competitive performance begins along with music. The dynamic performance is derived from the power of men who are skilled in navigating the rough sea of Noto. During the performance of lantern floats, fireworks light up the summer night sky, creating great excitement among the float carriers and the audience.
The energetic performances of large kiriko floats carried by a hundred fishermen are not to be missed. When you look up at the lanterns from a narrow alley, they look even larger, and you can experience their full impact. The fact that there are no electric cables across the road blocking the way of large kiroko floats is indicative of the importance this region places on its traditional festivals.
●Well-controlled movement of one hundred men.
●Fantastic large Chinese characters and pictures of samurai figures.
●Overwhelming heroic performance by fishermen.
Day: 1st Saturday of August
Location: Ishizaki-machi, Nanao
Inquiries: Nanao City, Tourism Promotion Section (Tel: 0767-53-8424)