Updated： November 06, 2018
Nagasaki Kunchi Festival: an experience of the city's unique multicultural heritage
The Nagasaki Kunchi is the most famous festival in Nagasaki. It is a vibrant and exciting showcase of Japanese traditions and intercultural exchanges Nagasaki is famous for.
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The Nagasaki Kunchi is the festival of the Suwa shrine (pictured above), located the northern part of Nagasaki. It began as a fall harvest festival in the late 16th century and evolved into a shrine festival when the Suwa Shrine was founded in 1642. The Shrine's grounds is one of the four main venues.
The festival's highlights are traditional performances by groups of Nagasaki's various districts. Each district called odori-cho has the responsibility of puting on a show once every seven years, so there is no redundancy from year to year. Many of them are traditional Japanese dances, others reflect the city's cultural diversity. The most famous is the dragon dance pictured above. It originates from the Chinese community in Nagasaki which traditionally performed it on New Year's Eve.
Nagasaki was the only port city open to the world during the Edo era. The Dutch and Portugese were the only Europeans that had access to Japan through Nagasaki and as such, their culture permeated into Nagasaki. Here we see a representation of a Dutch ship. Such boat-shaped floats are carried on the streets for the festival. You can follow them as travel through the city in a festive atmosphere.
Performances at the Nagasaki Kunchi are designated as Intangible Folk Cultural Properties of Japan for the reason that they showcase the intercultural exchanges of Nagasaki as well as Japanese folk traditions.
Here we see a dance and music performance. The women are wearing kimonos with unusual colorful stripes and people behind them are playing the shamisen, a three-string Japanese traditional instrument. Performances vary greatly in nature. Some are quiet, elegant dances whereas others, such as the Chinese dragon dances, are much more dynamic. There is something for everyone here. Hope you enjoy the festival.
When and Where?
The festival is held every year on October 7-9. The main performances are held at four different stages: Suwa Shrine, Otabisho, Yasaka Shrine and Kokaido. You have to buy tickets in advance to get a seat, otherwise it is possible to get glimpses of the show from the outside. Arrive early to get a good spot!
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