Along with the Gion Festival in Kyoto and the Gion Yamagasa in Hakata, the Aizu Tajima Gion Festival is recognised as one of Japan’s three best Gion festivals and takes place annually from 22 to 24 July in Aizu in Fukushima prefecture.
The festival offers a number of highlights. The Nanahokai (seven sacred vessels) Gyoretsu is a procession of women dressed in traditional wedding costumes through town to the Tadeuga and Kumano Shrines in the early morning of 23 July. During the evenings of 22 and 23 July children’s Kabuki performances are held on elaborate floats parading along the town’s streets.
Traditionally, religious festivals such as this are hosted by the chief priests of the shrine, however in accordance with regional custom the Aizu Tajima Gion Festival is organised by groups of local leaders known as Otoya. The festival has been recognised nationally as an important intangible folk cultural asset thanks to this unique practice.