The Yatai (ornately carved wooden floats), cultural assets unique to Kanuma, were also made during this period. Many of the woodworkers who constructed the famous Toshogu shrine in Nikko were Kanuma citizens. These woodworkers had to be highly skilled craftsmen in order to complete the intricate details of the shrine. More than four million, five hundred thousand craftsmen were involved in the construction of the shrine. After completing Toshogu Shrine in Nikko, many master craftsmen settled in Kanuma. Today’s master woodcrafters in Kanuma are actually descendants of those artisans who settled in Kanuma more than 100 years ago.
One of this center’s centerpieces of craftsmanship is the huge 16-foot carved column of three mythical creatures; a dragon, a Chinese lion and a phoenix, that is located in its lobby. These three animals have much mysticism associated with them and are common subjects of carvings in shrines and temples throughout Japan.
GREAT FALL FESTIVAL
Kanuma’s Great Fall Festival, called Aki-Matsuri or O-Matsuri in Japanese, occurs every year in mid-October. Presently, there are 29 carved (yatai) floats in Kanuma, which are stored or are on display in museums. These floats (representing districts of Kanuma) are pulled into the grounds of Imamiya Shrine on the morning of October 9th, where an opening ceremony is held. After this, the floats are paraded from dawn to dusk, up and down the main streets of Kanuma. Taiko drum groups play music from inside the floats’ interior and at road intersections districts compete to see who can play the loudest, thus showing which of Kanuma’s districts has the most pride.
Behind the center’s carved column is a mini- theater where visitors can watch video footage of the Annual Kanuma Fall Festival. Two shows are available (1) Kanuma Fall Festival & (2) The Festival, Carvings and People. Along the right wall are photos and descriptions of various types of floats throughout Japan and a selection of photos of the more elaborately and culturally significant floats of Kanuma. Along the other wall is a display describing the Fall Festival’s main events: Meeting at Imamiya Shrine, Float team members receiving a blessing from the head priest, a flute player, girls in traditional dress, lifting a float up so it can be turned, night competition.
YATAI FLOAT VIEWING HALL
Adjacent to the mini-theater is the Viewing Hall. In this room are three Yatai floats on display and many hands-on interactive displays explaining the numerous processes that go into the making of a Yatai float. Interactive Computer Display gives interesting facts about the floats in a game format. It presents information about the float’s headboards, cart frame, bridge/fence structure, base, carvings, lintel carvings, stage panels, and wheels. This computer program also gives interesting information about various animals such as the phoenix (hou), dragon (ryu), monkey (saru), eagle (washi), lion (karajishi), and golden pheasant (kinkeichou).
YATAI no MACHI (TOWN OF FLOATS) CENTRAL PARK, KIKUSUIEN GARDEN and JAPANESE TEA HOUSE
Figure: Yatai no Machi Chuo Park (Kikusuien Garden) and Yatai no Machi (town of floats) Central Park
The Yatai no Machi (town of floats) Central Park was constructed in the central Kanuma as important bases of traditional cultures. The Yatai no Machi Central Park includes the reconstructed Kikusuien Garden, one of the three famous gardens in Kanuma, a float pavilion that permanently exhibits three carved floats used in the float procession of the Imamiya Shrine Festival and having been selected as a national important intangible cultural heritage, and a tourism and industry pavilion that introduces and sells local products. The Yatai Float Center has a Japanese garden where visitors can enjoy its natural beauty year round. Of the three greatest gardens of Kanuma, only the Kikusuien garden remains. It is decorated with stone lanterns and rocks of unusual shape or color, collected from around the country. Each season offers a uniquely beautiful view of the garden. The Kantokyo, in the middle, is a house built in the style of a tea-ceremony hut. Its authentic tea-ceremony room is still used for group lessons. Garden area of the city central park also stalls Craft Fair.
Address and Contact
Kanuma Yatai Float Center and Yatai No Machi (Town of Floats) Central Park, Chuo Park (Kikusuien Garden)
1870-1 Ginza, Kanuma City (Kanuma-shi), Tochigi Prefecture 322-0052, Japan Tel: 0289-60-6070 Fax: 0289-62-5666 Hour: Open 9am to 5pm, Closed on Mondays and the day after national holidays.
Website: http://www.kanuma-kanko.jp/miru/culture_details1.shtml and http://fes.kanuma.org/