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July 24, 2014 - 2014 Uwajima Ushioni Matsuri/Warei Taisai

Every year in late July, the city of Uwajima down in Shikoku's Ehime Prefecture, famed for its bullfighting, is host to a three day festival, culminating in some exiciting and lively main events on the 24th of July. The inspiration for the festival supposedly dates back to the 1593 Siege of Jinju, Korea. During this battle, some of the troops of Katou Kiyomasa, a daimyou fighting for Toyotomi Hideoyshi, are said to have used a turtle-shell like cart wrapped in cow hide, complete with a fake 'Ushioni' (S, literally something like cow-demon) head, while laying seige to Jinju castle.

The final day's main festivities begin a bit after midday, when a few dozen Ushioni floats, complete with demonic heads, are carried through the city by the locals to lively music and shouting. Additionally, the Ushioni are said to have a purifying role, and the frequent shaking of their heads (by operators underneath) is said to ward off evil spirits.

The procession of Ushioni through the city is definitely a fun sight to behold. Eventually, the column reaches its final destination, Warei Shrine, for a last lively performance before heading off for disassembly.

The end of the Ushioni procession is followed not too soon after by the next event, the hauling of Warei Shrine's mikoshi through Uwajima.

Eventually, after a lengthy procession and a short but impressive fireworks display, the mikoshi return to the shrine at night via a fairly unusual route, the Sukagawa River, through a column of burning hand-held torches. After this, they perform around a bamboo tree that has been set up in the middle of the river in front of the shrine.

The final event then begins quickly after the mikoshis' return, the hashirikomi, where locals try one by one to climb the tall bamboo tree and pull off a charm attached tightly at the top.

The first to attempt it failed, however the second brought a close to the festival and an amazing day with his successful removal of the charm.

While not as extravagant as some of Japan's major festivals, personally I found it to be one of the best and most interesting I've seen among many around the country. And thankfully the crowds are no major issue either, probably owing to a combination of Uwajima's remoteness and the fact the festival is not as famous as some others.

If you have the chance, Uwajima's late July festivities are a must see!

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List of Posts:
2014/07/24 - 2014 Uwajima Ushioni Matsuri/Warei Taisai
2014/07/13 - 2014 Miyajima Kangen-sai
2014/07/01 - Yuutoku Inari Jinja - The Kiyomizu of Kyuushuu