153rd Annual Koga Chouchin Saomomi Festival

When: December 7, 4-9pm
Where: Koga Station West Exit

During the Chouchin Saomomi Festival (literally “Paper Lantern Bamboo Pole Festival”), groups from Koga city each hoist a lantern on top of a bamboo pole nearly 20m high and jostle to extinguish other groups’ lanterns.

The festival is believed to have originated in the Edo period in the Koga domain (present day Nogi in Tochigi Prefecture), where the Shinto priest of Nogi Shrine would ride around the seven villages that were part of the shrine’s territory on horseback, proudly bearing a kamihoko spear, one of Nogi Shrine’s goshintai (an object of worship believed to contain a deity). When he returned to the shrine in the early morning on December 3, his welcoming party, who carried lanterns, would ward off the cold until the priest arrived by tussling with each other. It is said that the original name of the festival was Okaeri, or ‘welcome back’.

Nowadays, the young people participating in the festival shout ‘konyabeda, konyabeda’, meaning that tonight is a night to let your hair down and go crazy! There will be a temporary fence roughly 10m tall set up for the festival, inside which the participants will collide, violently clashing their bamboo poles together. It is definitely a sight to behold.

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