Famous Japanese Places - Fragrances of Takayama, Hida - Perfume Story

Famous Japanese Places - Fragrances of Takayama, Hida

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Famous Japanese Places - Fragrances of Takayama, Hida

Lecture about the History and Culture of Takayama at the Universit_ Paris 7 - Denis Diderot

Mr. Akira Tanaka who is researching the history and culture of Takyama at the Gifu Prefecture, Takayama City Museum of History and Folklore in Japan gave a lecture at the Universit_ Paris 7 - Denis Diderot on November 25, 2010.

The lecture gave details about Takayama City in Gifu Prefecture. The city is a rural area and highly mountainous, with mountain forest occupying 92.5% of the land. While flatland makes up a mere fraction of the local topography, Takayama was the center of the Hida Province dating back 1,300 years and even now it is the central city of the Hida region. The fascinating lecture content included the circumstances leading to the current formation of town, which originated from the old castle town and the trading town being divided by the Miya River flowing through the center of Takayama. Other content included the festivals held over the four seasons, everyday lifestyles and wedding ceremonies held in Takayama.

Listening to this lecture brought back memories of the "Takayama Fragrance" I encountered at the Takayama Festival held in the previous month of October.

The Autumn Hachiman Festival held at Takayama City, Gifu Prefecture

The Takayama Festival is well-known as one of Japan's three most beautiful festivals. Takayama festival is the collective name for the "Sanno" and "Hachiman" festivals. The Sanno festival is held in the spring (April) when the ground is starting to peek through the melting snow in the mountains, and the Hachiman festival takes place in the autumn after the severe heat has passed, the autumn breeze has started to blow and overwintering preparations have to be made. The Takayama festival originated from the late sixteenth to the seventeenth century, and despite undergoing a number of changes, it continues today as a traditional event retaining elements of the Edo period.
The Hachiman festival was held on October 10 (it was also supposed to be held on October 9 but it was canceled on that day due to heavy rain) in autumn 2010 on a scorching hot day. 

Gojinko (festival parade) roaming through the town

The autumn Takayama festival is an annual festival of the Sakurayama Hachimangu Shrine which is the ujigami (tutelary shrine) of the people who live in the northern half of the old castle town of Takayama. Eleven floats make an appearance at the north side of Yasugawa street and Shimocho, and a variety of traditional festival events take place such as drawing the floats through the streets and the hotei tai (float on which the god of fortune rides) karakuri (mechanical) puppets performance. A large parade formed of hundreds of people adorned in traditional costume leaves Hachimangu Shrine and travels through the town while accompanied by festival music and performing traditional Japanese dance.

A float being pulled

Musicians with flutes and taiko

Karakuri Performance

There are two Karakuri performances within the grounds of the Hachimangu Shrine. The sophisticated karakuri performance is something to behold. Two karako (child figures dressed in Chinese-style clothing) cross a device and leap onto the shoulders of the hotei (a Chinese folkloric deity), and the hotei declares one of them the victor. So impressive is the puppets' performance, it is hard to believe they are operated by hand. We will tell you more about the movement of these puppets later.

Hotei Tai

Origins of the Takayama Festival

It is not clear when the Takayama festival originated, however, a number of letters and records concerning the Kanamori clan remain today. The Kanamori clan, which was the daimyo (feudal lord) of the feudal domain of Hida, entered the Hida Province (the region including Takayama) as the country's ruler in 1586, but was soon forced to relocate to a different domain in 1692.
A well-known reason behind Takayama Festival's ranking as one of Japan's three most beautiful festivals is its floats. The floats blend subtlety, profundity and melancholy with magnificence and beauty, and luxury and gorgeousness. What's more, they are a harmony of traditional and technical beauty.
The main body of the floats is formed by beautiful Momoyama period architecture and artistic handicrafts, and the effect and influence of emerging techniques reminiscent of early Edo period Nikko construction are enhanced by the workmanship of Hida master craftsmen. Also, the artwork of the floats characterized by huge picture scrolls is unique to Takayama.
The floats have been designated Important Tangible Folk Cultural Properties of Japan, and the parade event has been designated a national Intangible Folk Cultural Property.

Sophistication of the Karakuri Performance

The hotei tai karakuri performance was cancelled on October 9th due to rain but was held on the morning and afternoon of the 10th.
The hotei tai float was the only karakuri float of the 11 floats that took part in the Autumn Takayama Festival. The karakuri mechanism consists of boy and girl karako dolls revolving while crossing a swing-like aya (see description below), and then leaping onto the shoulder of the hotei. The nine-man team operating the float skilfully maneuvers the 36 puppet strings.
The hanare karakuri (extremely elaborate and sophisticated karakuri puppet show called ayawatari) hotei and karako puppets are a highlight. To the tune of a rokudan kuzushi (traditional Japanese song), a boy and girl karako travel across five swing-shaped objects called an "aya", and leap onto the hotei standing at the head of a mechanical chute. Then, the hotei declares a victor and a banner written with the words "wako-dojin (Buddha mingling with the human world by hiding his true talent) is displayed and ticker-tape is thrown. The large applause and cheers of the spectators who had swamped the grounds of the Hachimangu Shrine filled the blue sky.
It is not clear when this float was built, but the event has a history of over 220 years considering it is said that the hotei karakuri was performed from 1781 to 1789.

Hotei Tai parade

Fragrance also plays a part in the Takayama Festival

A gentle unknown fragrance wafted in the air when I was walking along the approach to the Hachimangu Shrine. Looking in the direction of the fragrance, there was a "Takayama Perfume" shop.
The perfume was the "Hida-Takayama Eau de Parfum (Pure Mist)" produced by the Hida-Takayama Tourism Association in collaboration with Shiseido. The perfume scent is based on the flower of Takayama City, the rhododendron reticulatum, and the keynote fragrance is the floral green family.
It is a perfume that suits the streetscape of the old, historic Takayama.

A Hida-Takayama Eau de Parfum Selling Space

Takayama is a great city that retains the historical culture of Japan. We very much look forward to your visit.

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This page contains a single entry by administer published on March 8, 2011 3:32 PM.

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