52nd Fukushima Waraji Matsuri (2021)
|Dates||August 6-8, 2021|
|Official Homepage (Japanese)||https://www.waraji.co.jp/|
Announcement about the 2021 Fukushima Waraji Matsuri
June 22, 2021
~ Comment from Hideo Kogawa, Chairman of the Fukushima Waraji Matsuri Executive Committee ~
As a result of discussions of the Fukushima Waraji Matsuri Executive Committee, we have decided that the content of this year’s Waraji Matsuri should be based on the current situation of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Looking at the recent situation of new infections in Fukushima City, we can see that the outbreak of new patients has been reduced to almost zero with only a few patients per day, and the vaccination of elderly people in the prefecture is expected to be completed by the end of July, which is a positive sign.
However, the end of the Covid-19 pandemic is not yet in sight, and there is concern that the usual festival with 300,000+ spectators and thousands of participants may expose spectators, participants, and related parties to the risk of infection.
Anyone with a computer or smart phone with ZOOM installed can participate, so please feel free to join us.
In addition, in order for everyone to feel the atmosphere of the Waraji Matsuri as much as possible, the Fukushima Waraji will be displayed on Eki-mae Street in front of Fukushima Station. At the same time, in order to promote the Waraji Odori, which was renewed two years ago, a small group of people will perform and dance.
The organizing committee will take all possible measures to prevent infection during the festival, so please cooperate with us and follow the instructions of the staff to help stop the spread of the virus.
Original Japanese: https://www.waraji.co.jp/topics/416/
About the Fukushima Waraji Matsuri
The Fukushima Waraji Matsuri was born in 1970, marking 2021 as the 52nd anniversary of this annual festival. 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. In 2019 to celebrate half-a-century of the Fukushima Waraji Matsuri multi-instrumentalist producer Otomo Yoshihide, who has a close connection to Fukushima, help 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 will be accompanied by dancers performing the new ‘Waraji Odori’.
August 6 (Friday): Prayer to End the Pandemic
① The Fukushima Waraji will be displayed in front of the former Nakago Building on Eki-mae Street opposite the Fukushima Station East Exit from early in the evening until 8:00 P.M.
② There will be an exhibition featuring original Waraji art work from the general public.
③ A Shinto ritual will be held to pray for the end of the pandemic.
August 7 (Saturday): Waraji Matsuri at Home
① The general public will be able to participate in the Waraji Odori dance from home using ZOOM.
② The Fukushima Waraji will be displayed in front of the former Nakago Building on Eki-mae Street opposite the Fukushima Station East Exit from early in the evening until 8:00 P.M.
③ There will be an exhibition featuring original Waraji art work from the general public.
④ The Waraji Ondo music performance, and Waraji Odori dance will be performed in front of the Fukushima Waraji (4~5 small performances throughout the day).
⑤ Waraji Workshop: Craft your own waraji straw sandal to take home (~12:00 P.M.)
August 8 (Sunday)
Dedication ceremony for the Fukushima Waraji at Haguro Shrine on Mt. Shinobu.
① Route 13 will not be used during this year’s event.
② The event may be further reduced in size, or cancelled if there is an increase in local cases of Covid-19.
Further details about the event schedule, measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19, applications for the Waraji Workshop on August 7, how to participate in “Waraji matsuri from Home”, etc. will be made available on the Fukushima Waraji homepage (https://www.waraji.co.jp/) in Japanese. Follow the Fukushima Guide Facebook page for English updates.
About the 50th Anniversary of the Fukushima Waraji Matsuri in 2019
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.
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.