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Translation - English UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage
The Whaling Boat Festival at Toride Shrine
The whaling boat festival is typically held in the northern part of Yokkaichi city in Mie prefecture. This festival is the most representative of festivals which depict a whale hunt and in 1997 it was designated as an intangible folk cultural asset in Japan.
The festival was founded in the late stages of the Edo period. Toride Shrine has dedicated itself to putting on this event every year since then.
The whaling boat festival is a reenactment of a real whale hunt, but on land. It is a ritual done to bring luck in order to catch many whales and have a good harvest.
Toride Shrine has 4 whaling boats.
(Jinjamaru of the Kitamajima group) (Jintokumaru of the Nakajima group)
(Kanoumaru of the Nantou group) (Gongenmaru of Furukawa town)
Every year on August 14th the boats are taken out of the shrine and paraded around the town. On the 15th the main parade is held and the boats are returned to the shrine.
On the 14th, which is the first day of the event, people from villages around the shrine bring torches made from rice straw and bamboo to worship at the shrine.
A Shinto priest says a prayer to purify the participants and their costumes for the festival so that it will go smoothly and successfully.
After the purification process a ritual is performed in which they receive fire from the gods which is taken to where the torches are. They then light the torches and watch them until they go out.
The Nakajima group Jintokumaru
The show starts with the Hadashi finding a whale offshore.
The whaling boat chases the whale to the sound of Taiko drums, but then they draw back as the whale attacks. They then fight back and successfully hunt the whale. The highlight of the show is the fighting between the whaling boat and the whale.
Furukawa town Gongenmaru
The Hadashi is the fisherman that harpoons the whale, which is the main part of the show.
It is performed by a 9 to 12 year old child.
The rowers who follow the Hadashi’s directions.
They are performed by 3 to 7 year old children.
On the morning of August 15th every year, the festival members from each town assemble at Toride shrine for the festival. The whaling boat show is performed as a ritual event for the festival in Toride shrine.
The show starts as the Hadashi finds a whale offshore.
The whale boat chases the whale to the sound of Taiko drums, but it runs away.
They try to chase the whale again, but the boat draws back as the whale attacks.
In the middle of the fighting, the Jinjamaru of Furukawa town joins in. The whaling boats fight against the whale from both sides of the shrine gateway.
The whaling boats get ready again to hunt the whale and the Hadashi harpoons the whale.
Tomoage (Raising the boats)
After they kill the whale, they sing a song and raise the boats to celebrate a good haul and give thanks to the gods. The back part of the boat is raised higher to show the big whale that they caught.
Furukawa town Gongenmaru
The Nantou group Kanoumaru
The Kitajima group Jinjamaru
After all of the whale hunting events finish, the festival participants play Taiko drums, sing the Ise Ondo dance song, and go worship at Toride shrine to give thanks to the gods for the success of all the events. This is called Miyamairi and that’s how it ends.
December 1st, 2016
Toride shrine office
Extinguished fire festival
The Nakajima group Town parade
Furukawa town Town parade
The Annual festival
The Main parade
Miyamairi (Worshipping at the shrine)
Registered in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list on December 1st
The Whaling boat festival at Toride shrine
Bachelor's degree - Central Washington University
Years of translation experience: 4. Registered at ProZ.com: Oct 2017.