63rd Annual Itako Ayame (Iris) Festival

When: May 24 – June 29
Where: Ayame Park and various other locations around Itako
Official Website (Japanese)

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This festival’s history goes back to 1952, when it was conducted by iris-lovers placing the cut flowers in beer bottles as decorations. From late May till the end of June, you can enjoy the beauty of around one million purple, yellow, and white iris plants of 500 different varieties blooming around Itako.

During the festival there will be a number of events, including ayame-odori (iris dancing) and yome-iri fune (bridal boats). Boats will also be operating between 9am and 5pm every day (and additionally from 6-7:30pm on Saturdays). For 1000 yen (500 yen for elementary school children and infants) you can travel back to a time when boats were an essential form of transport for the citizens of Itako.

Yome-iri Fune

Up until the land reclamation operations conducted as part of local development in the first half of 1955, the Itako area was built upon a system of canals. For that reason, when a new bride and/or her goods were to be transported to her new home (the husband’s family home) it was done using a Sappa boat.

The yome-iri fune during the Ayame Festival will be operating along the Maekawa River within Ayame Park every Wednesday (11am), Saturday (11am, 2pm and 7:30pm), and Sunday (11am and 2pm) throughout the festival. After arriving at the ‘Itako Bride’ memorial, the bride will walk along the pathway to the boat with her matchmaker and the boatman, then the boat will set off. Often the groom will be waiting at the dock of the destination. On the 15th and 22nd of June at 7:30pm you can see the special Milky Way Yome-iri Fune.

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