Kiriko Festivals in Noto




Contribution 02

The Kiriko – Its Structure and Design

Consideration for the eye-level of spectators

The height of a kiriko is determined by the size of the body part. This part is usually called “kojo”, but the name differs according to the area. If “kojo” means the size of a tatami mat in the olden days, there is good reason for the theory of Mr. Tetsunori Takayama (Priest of Haguro Shrine, Suzu City), according to which the old-style kiriko was as large as one tatami mat (1.8m by 0.9m).
Since the Taisho period, kiriko have become larger and larger. Their shapes can be roughly divided into a tall-type and a wide-type. The kiriko frame is made by carpenters and craftsmen who make fixtures. Mr. Masayoshi Kikutani, who made a tall kiriko for the Jike area, says that he placed importance on the balance when the kiriko stands. In general, Chinese characters and crests are written on the front of the body, and pictures of deities such as the Bodhisattva of Compassion and Mahakara, as well as samurai warriors and beautiful women, are painted on the back. These days, we see many pictures of anime characters. Mr. Ryosuke Narinobo, a kiriko painter, says that kiriko pictures require special skills and experience, because the eye-level of the spectators must be taken into consideration when determining their composition and colors.

Ingenuity and attention to detail

The top of a kiriko has a gable made of coated board. There is a decoration board called kegyo under the roof, and a round tile called toribusuma is sometimes attached. Both of these are used in temple architecture, and they are symbols of protection against fire. The decorations just under the roof are different in each region. They include gohei (decoration in the shape of sacred paper strips), sacred sakaki branches, Shinto ropes and sake barrels. The flag of the rising sun is used for decoration in some areas of Noto Town. In some areas, sakaki branches are placed on the handrail to invite a deity. The upper part of the kiriko is illuminated by lanterns. An old man says, “The illumination clearly showed the reflection of the gold-leaf decoration and dragon carvings in the mirror at the back of the roof.” The handrail is made either in the Japanese kumikoran style or the giboshi (ornamental cap) style, and is often decorated with metal fittings. The four pillars of the body are supported by beams that maintain the robust structure of the kiriko, which is shaken violently.
Since kiriko require a strong structure, their main frame is made of ate (Noto Hiba), and the parts that support the load are made of oak. Ate resembles Japanese cypress, but is denser and heavier. These days, synthetic resin paint is often used; however, in the Shoin and Takojima areas of Suzu City and northward, natural lacquer is used to conceal the joints of beams. With the zelkova decoration attached, the weight of a kiriko is several tons.

Contributor profile

Eiji Kumazawa
Doctor of Engineering
Associate Professor, Architecture
Ishikawa College of Technology

Lives in Tsubata-machi, Kahoku-gun, Ishikawa Prefecture. Teaches architectural design, and judges at Ishikawa Architecture Award and Chubu Architecture Award. This article is the result of his research, “Study on the establishment of tourism strategies using the example of kiriko festivals in Suzu, northern Noto.”