Shimada Obi Matsuri (Festival) 2010 - 島田帯祭

Every three years in Shimada city, Shizuoka prefecture, a three day festival is held. 2010 just happened to be one of those years, and I spent quite a bit of time racing around Shimada on my bike to catch various events and happenings.

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.

The town pulls their float (yatai) through the city - a long and arduous process.

Every now and then, the men take a break from pulling the float and small children dance in the float, or women and children perform a dance out in front.

These children were about four or five years old.

Then of course, the main procession:

Now, what you've all been waiting for - the obi!

So, want to go? Look no further. I've got the details for you below:

View Shimada Obi Matsuri in a larger map

When: Every three years - Friday, Saturday and Sunday in early October. Next one will happen in 2013. Events happen all day long each of the days.

How to get there: Go to Shimada Station (島田) on the JR Tokaido line (about 26 minutes from Shizuoka Station). The Oi Shrine is about a ten minute walk from Shimada station, and there will be processions along the main streets. Most people sit and stand on the sidewalks.

Cost: Free. Bring food or money for food.

Bathrooms: Some portable toilets around. Train station has bathrooms. Bring toilet paper or tissue and hand sanitizer as the bathrooms may not have or will run out of toilet paper.

Parking: Minimal around the main area. Best bet is to park a little ways away and walk.

Japanese required: None, unless buying food.

Official Website (in Japanese): http://simadataisai.web.fc2.com/