Kishiwada: The Fast and Furious Japanese Festival

The heat of a Japanese summer rises with the cicada orchestra. A neck towel and hand fan become essential, and water cooled cucumbers on a stick look very appealing. The Japanese summer is fantastic, despite being an endless sticky mess, because it is the season of festivals and fireworks. August in Kansai is full of events like Tori Ningen Birdman Rally, the Taga Taisha lantern festival and Tanabata dances, dreamy yukata strolling festivals, Tenjin Matsuri and of course the annual Yuru Kyara festival.

September, on the outside, may seem quiet and boring without this onslaught of activity. A long comedown as the season slides into autumn. But in the ambiguous urban region between southern Osaka and Wakayama, one of Japan maddest festivals is waiting to launch 4 tonne wooden carts, called Danjiri, careening at top speed along normal city streets while an adrenalin junkie surfs them… sans harness.

Not only in a straight line through, admittedly, narrow Japanese streets either, but around corners at speed. Wooden blockades are erected, houses along the route have special insurance against damage from crashing carts and 40 people have died in the last 120 years.

The festival occurs in both September and October. In September, the carts race around the city of Kishiwada, a small castle town not far from Osaka. In between all the dashing and movement, there are plenty of opportunities when the danjiri come to a stop and festival goers can appreciate the beautifully carved wood and other delicate decorations on these speed machines. At night they are hung with lanterns, and move slowly around the streets.

Not all rush

In October, there is the second, less famous part of the event, which includes a parade from Nankai Haruki station to Kishiki shrine, passing old houses of stained wood and ceramic tiled roofs, and squeezing down cramped streets, paved for cars, but originally built for feet.

The streets of Haruki.

The streets of Haruki.

Once we reached Kishiki shrine, that’s when the danjiri began to pick up speed, doing great, spinning laps of the grounds, throwing up dust. Warning to photographers to bring protection for your lenses. Later, mochi is thrown from the tops of the danjiri.

Kishiwada’s Danjiri Festival is held on September the 14th and 15th, 6am to 10pm and 9am to 10pm respectively and the Haruki matsuri, leaving from Nankai Haruki station is held the weekend before the second Monday in October.

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