The festival began in the year 1696, during the Genroku era. At the time, it was customary for newlywed women who had moved to Shimada to go to the Oi Temple (a main temple in Shimada) to officially report their new residence and offer prayers for a safe childbirth. The women wore formal clothes to the temple, and afterward they would walk through the streets dressed in their fancy attire. Eventually, it was decided that this was too embarrassing for the women, and so instead, the men who carried the temple's portable shrine hung the women's obi (a wide, decorative band wrapped the waist over a kimono) from wooden swords they carried on their backs in place of the women and offered the prayers for safe childbirth. The obi was considered a very important part of a bride's wedding outfit, so the most fashionable and unique obi were gathered from around Japan for this event. The custom became a festival, and has continued ever since, every three years.
Of course now, the festival consists of much more than some guys carrying around obi. (That may get kind of old after three full days anyway...) So now, a visual tour of various events from the Shimada Obi Matsuri (and details for where, when, how to go at the end of this post):
|A large float (yatai - 屋台、やたい) by one of the many towns in the city.|