Big floats are ignited with fire one after the other and men wearing make-up dance wildly.
On Sunday evening in mid-March, people dance excitedly amid showers of fire sparks around the blazing Sagicho floats. This explains why this festival is also called the Omihachiman no Hi-matsuri (Omihachiman Shrine fire festival).
A Sagicho is a float with a 2 m tall pine torch woven from new straw, on top of which is propped a 3 m long bamboo pole decorated with several thousand strips of red paper. A figure of the animal of the year according to the Oriental Zodiac, made with marine products and grain, is mounted in the center of this float. Each town spares no expense in coming up with all kinds of ideas for the floats.
The Sagicho Festival was apparently held for the first time in the 16th Century by newcomers to this district who had been so astounded by a local festival featuring huge pine torches taking place in April in this shrine that they decided to organize an even more impressive festival. This explains why it is held at this time of the year (mid-March) instead of the New Year, for the Sagicho Matsuri originally signified a New Year fire festival.
Around noon, some 10 Sagicho floats gather at Himure Hachimangu Shrine and a poll is taken to determine the best. Then the floats parade through the town to the accompaniment of shouts of 'Cho yare, yare yare! .' The people carrying mikoshi (portable shrines) are called odoriko and even the men are beautifully made up. Historically, the warlord of the Warring States Period, Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582) wore make-up and danced when he organized the Sagicho festival in a grandiose manner in the New Year.
The next day, the Sagicho floats parade until late afternoon when they assemble once again at the shrine for the highlight of this festival.
[Bus]Close to Obatacho-Shiryokan-mae bus stop on the Chomyo-ji bus route from Omihachiman Station.Omihachiman Station is on the JR Biwako Line from Kyoto Station.
Place: Himure Hachimangu Shrine,
Dates: Weekend in mid-March
City: Omihachiman City, Shiga Prefecture