Water-throwing Festival

20 Aug

I am a member of group that carries a two-ton 神輿 (portable shrine) every three years in the 深川八幡祭り (Fukagawa-Hachiman Festival).

This festival occurs in Tokyo on the third weekend of August. The festival is held every year…but the big, main festival is only every three years.

It was last held in August 2008 and was due again in August 2011 (last year)…but after the 2011 March 11th earthquake in the Tohoku area of Japan, the 2011 festival was postponed a year.

So, it was held eight days ago (on 2012 August 12th) and will be next held in 2015.

In 2008, I wrote a post about the festival with many photos and videos that my wife took. (Click here to read it.)

Anyways, this festival is nicknamed the 「水掛け祭り」 (“Water-tossing Festival”) because all along the 6km (3.8 mile) course, people vigorously throw water on the people carrying the portable shrines.

Also, the Tokyo Volunteer Fire Department sprayed us with fire hoses!

When we “carry” the 神輿(portable shrines), we don’t simply “carry” them…the teams often turns them around and around…and also toss them up and catch them!

From start to finish, it’s a ten-hour day! I was very sore and tired the next day…but it was fun.

One big thing that made this year’s different from previous years was that a team from the earthquake-stricken area of Tohoku joined the festival…and the Emperor and Empress of Japan came to watch!

The 神輿 (portable shrine) from the earthquake stricken area of Tohoku, Japan.

The Emperor and Empress of Japan (天皇皇后両陛下) at the festival! 

The Emperor and Empress of Japan (天皇皇后両陛下).

Were you one of the estimated 50,000 spectators at this festival? Were you, like me, one of the 3,000 participants?

Does your country have a festival anything like this?

34 Responses to “Water-throwing Festival”

  1. lucy July 31, 2015 at 11:07 am #

    I know this is an old post but I’m wondering if you know if this festival is still ‘the big one’ this year, 2015? Lots of sources say the big one won’t be until 2017? Also, is the parade and water throwing only on the Sunday?
    Thank you!


    • Joe July 31, 2015 at 12:40 pm #

      Next big one is 2017; my Japanese friend called the temple to confirm.


      • tokyo5 July 31, 2015 at 4:07 pm #

        I’m a member of the festival group … yeah, next time is 2017


    • tokyo5 July 31, 2015 at 4:05 pm #

      Yes, the most recent year the main event was held was last year … 2014.
      Next time will be 2017.


  2. tokyo5 May 18, 2014 at 7:51 pm #

    I wrote in this post that the 2011 Sendai Earthquake altered this festival’s three-year schedule, and the next main festival would be in August 2015 … but they’re putting it back on the original schedule. The main festival will be this year (August 2014).


    • Joe May 19, 2014 at 5:38 am #

      Was just about to reply to say this 🙂 Can you comment on how the timing of the festival works? I know it’s around August 15th, but is August 15th always the final day, or is it several days on either side, or what?


      • tokyo5 May 19, 2014 at 7:16 am #

        It’s a one-day festival. It occurs on a Sunday in August … I believe it’s the third one.

        The big, main festival occurs every three years. This year (2014), the main festival will take place.

        Will you be in Tokyo this August?


  3. Nuga April 9, 2013 at 10:30 pm #

    Yes..it’ll be hot but I’m hoping that being Malaysian and used to that kind of weather will help me cope with it there.. I’ve included Yokohama, Kamakura, Enoshima and Hakone in my itinerary..Really looking forward to it!


    • tokyo5 April 9, 2013 at 11:06 pm #

      You could see Kamakura and Enoshima on the same day … maybe Yokohama too, depending on how long of a day you wanted to make it.

      Will you travel alone?
      Did you plan the trip yourself? Or use a tour company?


  4. Nuga April 9, 2013 at 9:10 am #

    Hi..Thanks for the wonderful post! Can I know what is the difference in the main event that happens every 3 years and the event that happens every year? I’ll be in Tokyo in August and if I know the difference, it would be a good help! Thanks!


    • tokyo5 April 9, 2013 at 9:35 am #

      In the “main” festival (that will take place next in 2015, then 2018, etc), has more 神輿 (portable shrines), more participants, and more spectators…many more.
      And the course is longer.

      Will this be your first visit to Tokyo?
      What dates will you be here?
      Which country are you from?


      • Nuga April 9, 2013 at 12:36 pm #

        Oh thanks! I’ll be in Tokyo on the 14th till 21st of August..this is my first trip and I’m very excited!I’m from Malaysia..Your articles have been a great help to me in planning my trip 🙂


      • tokyo5 April 9, 2013 at 2:22 pm #

        It’s very hot in Tokyo in the summer…especially mid-August!
        But I’m sure you’ll enjoy your visit!

        What parts of the city are you planning to see during that week?


  5. tokyobling September 18, 2012 at 12:35 pm #

    Good work catching all these photos! Wish I could have stayed until the end of this festival! Well, there’s always the next time… (^-^)


    • tokyo5 September 18, 2012 at 2:48 pm #

      It’s too bad you missed the end of the festival. That’s the climax!
      All of the shrine tossing and water spraying that happens then is fun for the spectators to watch…but, for those of us that join the festival—it’s tiring!

      >Good work catching all these photos!

      Thanks. My wife took the photos in this post. I was carrying one of the 神輿 (portable shrines)…so I couldn’t take any pictures.

      You have a lot of nice photos on your blog! How long have you been in Japan?


      • tokyobling September 18, 2012 at 4:16 pm #

        Thanks! I’ve spent more than a handful of years here in Japan. I’ve never been part of the omikoshi teams though, I think my shoulders are grateful for me staying on the sidelines for that activitiy. (^-^)


      • tokyo5 September 18, 2012 at 5:35 pm #

        Yeah … carrying one of those things is a real work-out !

        I didn’t see an “About Me” page on your blog.
        Which country are you from?


      • tokyobling September 19, 2012 at 3:20 pm #

        There is one, but it’s not easy to find…


      • tokyo5 September 19, 2012 at 3:38 pm #

        You’re right…it isn’t easy to find. I didn’t see any link to it on your blog! 😉


  6. Mb August 27, 2012 at 12:56 am #

    Looks like a fun festival! 🙂


  7. 9symphony9 August 26, 2012 at 7:26 am #

    It looks like fun. It is hot here in New York. I would love that.


    • tokyo5 August 26, 2012 at 9:25 am #

      It is fun! You should visit Japan to experience it!

      Is it hot in New York? What’s the temperature?


      • 9symphony9 August 30, 2012 at 11:23 am #

        It was hot this summer. In the 90s with high humidity. It is getting cooler now a little.


      • tokyo5 August 30, 2012 at 1:31 pm #

        >In the 90s

        90°F is about 32°C … about the same temperature as Tokyo in the summer.


  8. Kay's Musings August 21, 2012 at 3:58 pm #

    Two tons? Wow! That’s too amazing, but it all looks like fantastic fun! How wonderful that the Empress and Emperor came to watch.


    • tokyo5 August 21, 2012 at 4:26 pm #

      Yes, the Royal couple’s visit made this year’s festival special !


  9. tokyo5 August 21, 2012 at 10:08 am #

    I added to this post a close picture of the Emperor and Empress that my wife took at the festival.


  10. RH August 21, 2012 at 4:42 am #

    That looks like a fun time, how did this originate?


    • tokyo5 August 21, 2012 at 7:38 am #

      I don’t know the origins of any festivals in detail … but 神輿 (portable shrine) festivals are a Shinto tradition.


  11. gigihawaii August 21, 2012 at 12:46 am #

    I don’t see any blond or white haired men in the photos, so I guess you have black hair. Interesting parade. Glad you all had fun!


    • tokyo5 August 21, 2012 at 7:34 am #

      Yes, my hair is black.
      But I purposely put only photos on here that don’t show me clearly.
      I don’t put private info online if I can help it.


  12. omawarisan August 20, 2012 at 8:34 pm #

    Going to have to go home to see the video post. I am amazed at the mix of two ton and portable.
    Does the water throwing bring blessings upon the throwers and carriers?


    • tokyo5 August 20, 2012 at 9:02 pm #

      > Going to have to go home to see the video post.

      That other post is of the festival in 2008 … but please do check it out — and leave comments.

      >I am amazed at the mix of two ton and portable.

      While carrying (and tossing! ) the thing, I began to question the “portability” of it.

      >Does the water throwing bring blessings upon the throwers and carriers?

      Not actually the “throwers” of the water, but on those carrying the shrine and on the shrine itself.

      But the real reason that this festival is popular is just that it’s fun!


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