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Fukushima Waraji Matsuri

Fukushima Waraji Matsuri

51st Fukushima Waraji Matsuri

Dates August 7-8, 2020 (Cancelled)
Official Homepage (Japanese) https://www.waraji.co.jp/

The following is an anouncement from the Fukushima Waraji Matsuri Executive Committee

May 1, 2020
Cancellation of the 51st Fukushima Waraji Matsuri

The 51st Fukushima Waraji Matsuri was to be held on Friday August 7 and Saturday August 8, but after deliberating with the executive committee we have decided to cancel the event for 2020.

Due to the announcement of the state of emergency for the coronavirus we have been unable to hold practice sessions for the Waraji Ondo and Waraji Dance activities that were revamped for the 50th anniversary last year.

The most important thing at the moment is to stop the spread of the virus, so we will not be able to hold the Fukushima Waraji Matsuri because we have great concern about the risk of spreading the virus to spectators, performers and participants, and related parties.

The Fukushima Waraji Matsuri is loved by local residents and visitors to the city, so the executive committee is very disappointed to cancel the event for the first time since it began in 1970. We will begin preparations for an improved and exciting festival next year.

We thank you for your continued support and cooperation.

May 1, 2020
Fukushima Waraji Matsuri Executive Committee
Committee Chairman, Hideo Ogawa

Official Homepage (Japanese)
https://www.waraji.co.jp/

The Fukushima Waraji Matsuri was born in 1970, marking 2019 as the 50th anniversary. The festival has its roots in the 400-year-old Akatsuki-mairi (Mt. Shinobu Dawn Procession), and the ‘Waraji Ondo’ theme song was originally composed by famed local composer Yuji Koseki. To celebrate half-a-century of the Fukushima Waraji Matsuri multi-instrumentalist producer Otomo Yoshihide, who has a close connection to Fukushima, was brought in to rebirth the festival based on the integration of the festival’s traditions, origins, music, dance, and clothing. The rhythm of the ‘Fukushima Ondo’ which is used in festivals around Fukushima City was arranged for a Japanese taiko ensemble to enable lively performances by a drumming troupe who are accompanied by dancers performing the new Waraji Odori.

2019 Schedule

Final ‘Heisei Era’ Waraji Matsuri

(Friday, 2 August, 2019)

The final chance to celebrate the ‘Waraji Matsuri’ that has been held across the Showa (1926 ~ 1989) and Heisei (1989 ~ 2019) eras. The 12m waraji will be paraded around the festival, along with dancing to the Waraji Ondo, and the flashy Dancing Soda Night. There will also be waraji racing time-trials.

・Opening Purification Ceremony: 4:30 pm
・Waraji Races: 5:05 pm
・Waraji Odori: 6:05 pm
・Dancing Soda Night: 7:45 pm
・Hand-Over Ceremony: 9:15 pm

New Waraji Matsuri

(Saturday, 3 August, 2019)

The start of the new Fukushima Waraji Matsuri. Come and dance the New Waraji Odori accompanied by a troupe of drummers.

・New Waraji Matsuri Opening: 5:00 pm
・New Waraji Odori (Part 1): 6:05 pm
・New Waraji Odori (Part 2): 7:35 pm
・Finale: 8:00 pm
・Waraji Craft Workshop (With Motomachi 4F, S-Pal 2F): 10:00 am ~ 12:00 pm
・Waraji Carrying Workshop (With Motomachi): 10:00 am
・Wara no Wa (Straw Ring) Workshop (With Motomachi): 1:00 pm

Waraji Dedication Ceremony

(Sunday, 4 August, 2019)

・Waraji Dedication Ceremony (Mt. Shinobu: Gokoku Shrine ~ Haguro Shrine): 9:30 am ~
・Festival FUKUSHIMA! Bon Odori (Machinaka Hiroba): 3:00 pm ~ 8:00 pm

Introduction

Following the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake music producer Otomo Yoshihide has been spreading the culture of Fukushima across Japan through Project FUKUSHIMA! The Fukushima Waraji Matsuri Organizing Committee is also committed to embracing these same ideas. To bring these ideas together we asked Mr. Otomo to help with a comprehensive renewal of the Waraji Ondo (song) and Waraji Odori (dance). This coincided with the 50th anniversary of the festival, as well as Japan transitioning to the new Reiwa era. We hope everyone is ready for some big changes to the Waraji Matsuri!

Hideo Ogawa, Fukushima Waraji Matsuri Organizing Committee Chairman.

Message from Otomo Yoshihide

Big changes for the 50th anniversary of the Waraji Matsuri.

The Akatsuki-mairi (Mt. Shinobu Dawn Procession) is a winter festival that has been held in Fukushima City for around 400 years. The Waraji Matsuri was created in 1970 by the wishes of local residents for a summer festival. I had some initial reservations about transforming a beloved festival that has been running for half a century. It’s always been an enjoyable festival. But we should be able to make an even more enjoyable festival. It’s not just for fun, we want to create an amazing festival that everyone can be proud of … that’s what we are aiming for with this transformation.

The impetus for this change was the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. Before this unprecedented disaster, we really felt that we needed the festival. At the same time, there were more chances to take the festival from its home to outside areas, and compare it to other local festivals. That’s when I noticed it. The necessity for a Fukushima festival that has ‘pride’.

Every festival has a first step. When that is inherited over a long period, it becomes ‘tradition’, which turns in to a feeling of ‘pride’. We based this transformation on various folk tales and festivals of Fukushima, the history of the Waraji Matsuri, the dances and music and clothes, the very nature of festivals, we are aiming for some big changes. The seed that is planted this year will be nurtured by everyone, and after 5 or 10 years, it will bloom into a magnificent flower. So that not just the people of Fukushima, but also those outside the area will develop an interest, come and see, and participate. That’s the dream we are looking at while developing this festival.

First, I’m excited for the initial performance at the Kizuna Festival on June 1st and 2nd. After that I want everyone to come and join the Waraji Matsuri on August 2~4. The final ‘Heisei Era’ Waraji Matsuri will be held on August 2, it will be the same festival as previous years. But the main event is the ‘New Waraji Matsuri’ on August 3. Then on the final day (August 4), the giant waraji will be offered to Haguro Shrine, and the Festival FUKUSHIMA! Bon Dance will be held that night. I hope everyone can join us for the making of the New Waraji Matsuri.

Otomo Yoshihide

The Waraji Matsuri & the Giant Waraji

Stories of Mt. Shinobu have been passed down through classical literature since ancient times. Located in central Fukushima City, the area is actually comprised of three smaller peaks with their own shrines, Mt. Ha (Gassan Shrine), Mt. Kumano (Yudono Shrine), and Mt. Haguro (Haguro Shrine). The 12m waraji (the largest straw sandal in Japan) is enshrined at Mt. Haguro, and for around 400 years the Akatsuki-mairi (Mt. Shinobu Dawn Procession) has been held in February to pray for healthy legs.

The giant waraji was originally enshrined to fit a large Nio statue that used to guard the entrance to Haguro Shrine. People began praying to the waraji for strong, healthy legs and safe travels before undertaking long journeys or pilgrimages. More recently people also pray for protection from illness and misfortune, a bountiful harvest, safety at home, as well as success in business.

The Akatsuki-mairi (Mt. Shinobu Dawn Procession) is a traditional festival featuring one giant waraji and it has been held in February every year for almost 400 years since the Edo period. Held in early August, the Fukushima Waraji Matsuri was derived from the Akatuki-mairi to protect the traditions of the largest waraji in Japan, increase awareness of the local region, and to provide excitement and a place for residents to unwind during the short Tohoku summer. One large waraji is commemorated during the Waraji Matsuri, and a second waraji is commemorated during the Akatsuki-mairi to provide a set of sandals so people can pray for strong and healthy feet and legs.

New Waraji Ondo

The biggest change from the previous version of the Waraji Matsuri is the larger number of dancing people, now the whole festival is moving. The new composition references the Fukushima Bon Dance that has been passed down over generations, and is based on an arrangement of ‘Waraji Ondo’ composed by Yuji Koseki, and then combined with the new ‘Waraji Taiko Random Drumming’. One of the defining characteristics of the new Waraji Matsuri is the large ensemble of flutes and drums which have been a part of Tohoku musical traditions since long ago. The music was arranged under the guidance of percussionist Yasuhiro Yoshigaki, drummer and instrumentalist ‘Hide’, and flutist Michiko Yamada, who combined with the aim to create a previously unheard dynamic festival performance.

About the Festival Dancing & Clothing

Accompanying the story of the waraji, this dance was choreographed by Chieko Ito to be enjoyed by people of all levels, young and old. Dancers pretend to hold a ring of straw in both hands, and imagine that they are moving their lower body with a strong walk. Using the fundamental movement of the straw ring, ensures that the dance can be enjoyed by everyone. The clothes were designed by Yoshiki Hanzawa, aiming for a new design for a Fukushima festival. The purpose of these clothes was to create something unique for Fukushima that the people of the world would want to wear and dance.

Map

The main parade runs along Route 13 (Shinobu-dori) from Machinaka Hiroba to the intersection near Fukushima Shinkin Bank.

Additional Information

Fukushima Waraji Organizing Committee

TEL: 024-536-5511 (Fukushima Chamber of Commerce and Industry)

Urgent Festival Inquiries (August 2~4 Only): 0180-99-3932

Organizers: Fukushima Waraji Organizing Committee, Fukushima Waraji Executive Committee.

Executing Organizations: Fukushima City, Fukushima Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Fukushima Retailers Association, Junior Chamber International Fukushima, other related associations.

Collaborating Organizations: Gokyakukai, Project FUKUSHIMA!

Supporting Organizations: Fukushima City Board of Education, Fukushima City Tourism and Convention Association, Fukushima Minpo, Fukushima Minyu, Radio Fukushima, NHK Fukushima, Fukushima Television Broadcasting, Fukushima Central Television, Fukushima Broadcasting, TV-U Fukushima, Fukushima FM, FM POCO, Fukushima Living, and more.

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