Who wants to be a ghost? A unique festival in the castle town of Tsuruoka
The Tsuruoka Tenjin Festival is a ritual taking place annually on 25 May at Tsuruoka Tenmangu Shrine in Yamagata. The shrine is the final resting place of Sugawara no Michizane, the legendary scholar of the Heian period (794-1185) known as the god of wisdom. The highlight of the festival is a procession dedicated to Sugawara no Michizane consisting of 2,500 local people in vibrant period costumes, along with elegant dancers and children supporting portable shrines, parading through the city’s streets to Tsuruoka Park.
The festival is also known as the “Ghost Festival” thanks to the presence of numerous ‘ghosts’ dressed in Kimono-style costumes who hide their faces with straw hats and hand towels as they creep up on festival spectators silently offering cups of sake during the parade. This custom originates from the legend that people in Kyoto dressed in women’s costumes to avoid the attention of authorities as they farewelled Sugawara no Michizane when he was exiled to Dazaifu in Kyushu in 901.
Costumes are available for anyone who wants to join the festival as a ghost (free of charge, prior reservations required). According to local tradition visiting the shrine as a ghost every three years during the festival will ensure visitors’ good fortune!
- Official Website
- Tsuruoka Park in Tsuruoka City, Yamagata
- Tenjin Festival Executive Committee
- Telephone Number