From April 14 to 15, the famous Takayama Matsuri takes place dedicated to the celebration of spring and good harvests. It is one of the most beautiful festivals in Japan. On the occasion of the Sannô festival, each district of Takayama presents a decorated chariot or Yatai which parades in a long procession around the Hie-Jinja shrine. The Yatai have just been classified as “Intangible Goods of Japanese Culture” by Unesco since January 2016. The festival takes place twice a year. In Autumn and Spring. In October the procession parades around the Hachiman-gû shrine and in April it is the turn of the Hie-Jinja shrine. It is my first Masturi and I do not intend not to miss anything.

I disembark in the middle of the day. The city is buzzing with entertainment with people in kimono and traditional costumes everywhere. Small street stalls sell local specialties or the usual dango skewers. Cherry blossoms light up the city along the canal. Randomly strolling, I come across a multitude of carts each more beautiful than the other. The Yatai, mobile carts dazzling with colors and decorations are a delight for the eyes. All around are busy locals in magnificent costumes moving the cart at regular intervals or finishing the last alterations.

In the evening, the streets are emptied a bit and I take this opportunity to dine on an assortment of food gleaned from the itinerant stalls. Everything is very good. The nightfall brings back the crowd even more compact than in the afternoon for the magnificent night procession. The highlight of the festival, the carts are adorned with bright lanterns and parade one after the other along the streets of Takayama. The effect is magical. I stay for a long time, until the dark night before returning to my inn in a festive and dreamy mood.

The next day the festivities resume more beautiful with again Yatai processions and many animations. On the town hall square, a puppet show on a Yatai is taking place. The sound system is horrible but the show is so beautiful that it doesn’t matter much. The karakuri ningyo, handcrafted puppets, are wielded by wires manipulated by people hidden in the chariot. Up to eight wires can be useful for handling a puppet. At the intersection of a street, a large circle of musicians in absolutely extraordinary costumes play on small metal drums. The sound is very beautiful. A procession of young girls in red and white kimonos catches the eye. Time flies and the streets are slowly emptying. The festival is already coming to an end. An event not to be missed, Takayama Matsuri is certainly one of the most beautiful memories of my stay in Japan.

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