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top page > History, Traditions > Traditional Performing Arts & Festivals

Traditional Performing Arts & Festivals

A variety of festivals rooted in each local community has been handed down by the people of Gunma who are passionate about preserving the tradition.
Yagibushi odori dancing, for example, was first created during the Meiji and beginning of the Taisho Period and it has been handed down to future generations by preservation groups in each community. The Kiryu Yagibushi Festival is one of the famous festivals held in Kiryu in August. What is more, a number of seasonal festivals held across the prefecture have distinctive characteristics unique to each community. The "Yukake Matsuri Festival at Kawarayu Onsen Resort (yukake means pouring onsen water to something/someone)" held in Naganohara-machi, gathers brave young men, who wear only the fundoshi (loincloth or traditional Japanese men's underpants), and pours onsen water on each other in vigor, as well as the Hitoboshi held in Nanmoku-mura, a fire-spinning festival, where people enjoys watching the monks carrying large torches from a mountain and spinning around a blazing bundle of straws on a river bank are worth seeing. Beside these, Gunma holds exciting events throughout the year, such as the "Syorinzan Daruma Festival" held in Takasaki in January, the "Monzen Harukoma Matsuri Festival" held in Kawaba in February, the "Ishidan Hina Matsuri or Girl's Festival" held in Shibukawa in March, "Sakura Matsuri Musha Gyoretsu" (cherry blossom festival featuring samurai parade) held in Kanra in April, "Ansei Tooashi Marathon" (masquerade marathon) held in Annaka in May, the "Heso Matsuri Festival" (bellybutton festival) held in Shibukawa in July, and the "Numata Matsuri Festival" held in Numata and an array of fireworks shows held across the prefecture in August.
These matsuri festivals held seasonally by each region will definitely leave with many pleasant memories of a lifetime for those that participated in them.
Gunma is also noted for a long list of thriving traditional culture such as village kabuki performance, puppet show, Kagura (Shinto theatrical dance) and Shishimai (lion dance). The Annaka Nakajuku Ito Ayatsuri Toro Ningyo, or string manipulated lantern dolls, is unequaled anywhere in entire nation and has been designated as National Important Intangible Folk Cultural Properties of Japan. The dolls are unique in that small lanterns or lights are inserted inside the papier-mache bodies giving a translucent effect to the dolls' faces. They are manipulated through a variety of string mechanisms by individuals operating a single doll from underneath stage. During a performance, each doll is lit up, creating a fantastic atmosphere.
Gunma's traditions, which have been carefully protected and inherited by the hands of local people, create extraordinary atmosphere unlikely to experience in this modern age.