There are many “weird” festivals in Japan in the sense of modern people. Among them, there are several festivals mainly for laughing called “Laughter Festival”. As symbolized by the “laughter” that appears in “Ama no Iwato myth” by “Kojiki” (The Records of Ancient Matters), old Japanese think that “laughter has the power to cheer God”. It was inherited, and a “laughing ritual” has been performed toward God as a festival in modern times.
There are still many such festivals in the winter when the power of the sun (Amaterasu: the Sun Goddess) weakens. Rethinking from a modern perspective, if you pray for longer sunshine hours and desperately laugh towards God (object of worship), you will receive the “benefits” that the person who laughs unexpectedly will be healthy. That’s why. There are many “laughing festivals” in Japan, both large and small, but this time we will introduce “Warai Matsuri (Laughing Festival)” in Wakayama Prefecture.
It says “Fortune comes in at the merry gate”, but “Warai Matsuri” (Laughing Festival) is the one that embodied it. This festival is an event transmitted from the Edo period to the Niu shrine in Hidakagawa Town, Wakayama Prefecture. In this festival, a clown-like makeup called “Suzu-furi” holds a bell and makes people laugh together with multiple “Masu-mochi” shouting “Laughing! Laughing!”. It is a bright and lively festival.
Origin of this festival, it dates back to the mythical era. In the past, the villagers comforted God who was depressed and failed. In that case, the episode “comforting to say laughable” is said to be the origin of this “Warai Matsuri”.
With this legend, it seems that the faith that laughing with a smile pushes evil spirits away and attracts huge harvest has taken root in this area.
This festival will take place between the shrine located near the Hidakagawa River and the Niu shrine. This distance “Suzu – furi” and accompanying “Masu-mochi” are going to practice while making people laugh. Suzu-furi laughing while shaking with a shout with “Yerakusha!, laughable laugh!” Masu-mochi and others who pick up crops such as mandarin or eggplant, skewered pitchers and laugh with laughter Suzu-furi. While shaking the sweets held in hand and the smiling face of surprise to people, they will line up to the shrine while smiling along the way.
Then when you reach the shrine, the smile parade is over. In the precincts, traditional performances in each area are shown, people will enjoy the festival with a smile till the end.
Hidakagawa-cho town of central Wakayama where peaceful scenery spreads surrounded by the rice field and the mandarin orange field. Normally, a quiet town changes completely a big crowd, it is time for the annual festival of the Nyu-jinja Shrine. It is commonly known as “Laughter Festival” and is also famous as a strange festival.
It is the famous festival in which “Ringing the Bell” who painted white face and applied red letters “Laugh” on the face cheeks walking through the town.
Originally, the festival that was separately held at each shrine in the four districts of Ekawa, Sanya, Matsuse, Wasa of the former Nyu village became one with the integration of the shrine. That is why traditional art in each district can be seen as a characteristic of the festival.
This festival is designated as intangible folk performing arts in Wakayama prefecture. It is said that this festival began with the villagers concerned about the life of Niutsuhime who fell asleep over the gathering of the god of Izumo and encouraged her to comfort “smiley and laugh”.
And it can be said that it is the symbol of this festival is “Ringing the Bell” who paints the face white, and wears flashy costumes and saying “smile, laugh”. Along with “Ringing the Bell”, there is a mikoshi, a festival car in the four districts, and a crowd holding banner flags in the line leading by “Masu Mochi”. A long line of about 500 people walks about 1 km from Otabijo (temporary shrine) to the shrine.
In addition, this region has become famous worldwide, as it has become “one of the most happiest place of the world”, chosen by the world’s leading travel guidebook publisher, Lonely Planet.
|Name:||Nyu Matsuri Festival (Laughter Festival)|
|Address:||Ekawa Hidakagun Hidakagawacho, Wakayama 649-1442 Japan|
|Access:||JR Kisei-honsen Line “Wasa-eki Station” (15 minutes by car)|
|Tel:||(+81) 738-22-2041 (Hidakagawa Tourism Association)|