Every year in early June, Kanazawa hosts a major festival to celebrate Lord Maeda Toshiie arrival at Kanazawa Castle all the way back in 1583. The name Hyakumangoku refers to the production of 1 million “stones” of rice and the events run over the entire first weekend of June. On Friday night there is live music along the Asanogawa while hundreds (thousands!?) of handmade lanterns float down the river from the mountains into East Kanazawa. On Saturday there’s a long a parade kicked off by a massive taiko performance, followed by firemen doing insane acrobatics, dozens of dance and music groups, plenty of children parading for no obvious reason, and even a movie star on a horse! On Sunday the festivities continue with live music and events throughout the city.
Friday – lanterns along the Asanogawa
The lanterns are released into the river near the Kanazawa University Campus as the sun is setting, so they reach the Higashi Chaya area just as it becomes dark. Try to get there early and snag a spot on a bridge for a truly spectacular view! But don’t stay in one place all night, check out the views right down on the river banks so you can see some of the cool designs painted by members of the local community!
Saturday – parade, food stalls and dancing in the street
Local firemen spend weeks preparing for the Hyakumangoku parade. All down the street there are at least a dozen firemen at the top of ladders performing the same feats in time to music! It was a little freaky, but don’t worry they’re tied to the ladders just in case.
After the parade, everyone heads to Ishikawa Shikoukinen Park to grab a bite at one of the dozens of food stalls and take a rest. There’s even kebab and Turkish ice cream! And plenty of traditional Japanese festival foods.
Once the sun sets, head back to the main drag where you’ll find hundreds of dancers performing simple, repetitive dances to traditional music. Absolutely join in!
Have you ever been to a festival in Japan? Are dreaming of going one day? Let me know in the comments.
Information on Hyakumangoku can be found here (in Japanese).