The Chichibu Yomatsuri(Night Festival) is the grand festival of Chichibu Shrine. People pull gorgeous floats around Chichibu, while kabuki is performed inside the floats. Fireworks light up the night sky and attract many visitors. The festival has its origins in the middle of the Edo period with the development of the silk market which had opened up in the grounds of the shrine. The charm of the festival lies in the rich colors of the the paper-covered lanterns ("Bonbori") which sway on the floats against a backdrop of fireworks in the winter sky.
"Chichibu Festival floats and Kagura （a Shinto theatrical dance) "are designated as a Important Intangible Folk Cultural Assets.
Inside the floats, people play the taiko drums while the floats are pulled around the town. The gorgeous floats were designated as Important Tangible Folk Cultural Assets in 1962. The four floats belong to the four local communities of Miyaji, Kami-machi, Naka-machi and Moto-machi, and community members take it in turns to perform Kabuki in the floats each year. Special overhanging stages are added to the each side of the float for the performers.
There are also two "Kasaboko" or flower parasol floats, Nakachika and Shitagou. They incorporate objects that represent a divine spirit and have a long pillar standing in the middle which has a triple layer of parasols on top decorated with flowers. However, because electricity transmission wire was installed on the route of the Kasaboko in 1921, the original form of the Kasaboko cannot be reconstructed, and now it is pulled as a Yakata (festival float).
Miyaji Yatai ( Traditional Japanese festival float )
This exquisite float is the oldest of the Chichibu floats. The rear curtain displays an imaginary sacred beast. The front top curtain displays flying cranes.
The largest of the four floats. This ornate float features many brilliant eaves. Keep an eye out for the Karajishi ( the form of a lion) and peony flowers on the front top curtain. The rear curtain features embroidery of carp swimming up a waterfall.
The carving and decorations are gorgeous.
The rear curtain is embroidered with"Takarabune"（a ship that the seven gods of fortune ride in）, and the distinctive Daruma （red-painted good-luck doll）.
Nakachika Kasaboko ( Flower parasol)
The whole body of the Kasaboko is black and decorated in a palatial style with colorful engraving and decorations.
Chichibu Shrine’s Goddess Myoken and Mt. Buko's Shenmaru dragon God meet once a year in the festival of Chichibu shrine. It is also known as a "winter version of the Tanabata story".
Strangely, the Chichibu shrine, Kame no ko ishi (turtle stone), and Buko mountain are lined up on a straight line on the map, and the Polaris star can be found on a line extending to the north.
Nowadays, the parade of the festival goes to "Kame no ko ishi" through the Motomachi Street, whereas previously people passed along the Bamba Street in front Chichibu Shrine.
When the parade passes near Suwa shrine, everyone becomes quiet and musicians stop accompaniment to show respect for the Gods. This is called "O Suwa watari (wandering)" and is still being done at the Festival.
This is the one of religious encents which originates in the Suwa faith that was rooted in the Chichibu district before the Goddess Myoken was enshrined in the Chichibu Shrine, and it seems that it is an event named after the God Suwa who is thought to be the protector in this area.
Please use it as a sightseeing guide of the entire Chichibu Night Festival.You can download it and print it out freely.