For the first time in three years: the Honjo Festival, ‘the best float festival on the Nakasendo’.
The Honjo Festival is one of two festivals that take place in Honjo City in early November. The Kodama Autumn Festival takes place on the Culture Day public holiday, November 3rd, only. But the Honjo festival takes place on both November 2nd and November 3rd annually. It is a traditional float festival that Honjo claims is the best float festival on the Nakasendo. The Nakasendo (/trail) was part of a highway of sorts, it improved an already existing highway that was more than a 1000 years old. There were five main routes established during the Edo period. This one, which is also called the Kisokaido, stretched between Edo (current Tokyo) and Kyoto.
The Best Float Festival!
The Honjo festival, fondly called “Chinju no Omatsuri” locally, is the principle festival of the Kanasana Shrine (of Honjo, not to be confused with nearby Kamikawa’s Kanasana shrine). Ten elaborate festival floats take part in the Honjo festival annually. The festival floats are of the Edo style with particularly detailed carvings on the main float and a podium on top where the significant historical character is perched. Each float is different than the other. Traditional music called ohayashi accompanies the float as they parade around the town.
The festival starts on the afternoon of November 2nd, when each of the 10 districts parade their floats. The 3rd, Culture Day, though is the main day of the festival. From around noon the floats leave the shrine and make their way to the station. They parade and have their “fight offs” from around 2.30 pm at the station. The festival normally culminates with a night time fight off at Hanipon Plaza, but that will not be on this year. The festival finishes at the earlier time of 5 pm in 2022.
Simultaneously, there are events around the station. With folk dance from 11am, from Ginza Street to Hanipon Plaza. After lunch there is a traditional performance around Hanipon Plaza. Between 11 am and 5 pm Kagura will be performed several times.
Get a real taste of what the festival is like from Ronin Dave, the Matsuri (Festival) King in Japan! Ronin Dave has been travelling around Japan’s festivals for at least the last 12 years. He shares his adventures on Youtube. Here is his insightful Honjo Festival video, shared with permission:
Event: Honjo Festival 本庄祭り
Venue: Kanasana Shrine ~ Ginza Street ~ Hanipon Plaza near Honjo Station.
Date: November 2nd and 3rd
Time: in the afternoon on November 2nd (Times not specified), the roads that are marked orange in the festival flyer below will be closed off between 1 am and 8 pm.
November 3rd: from 11 am to 5 pm on the 3rd.
The festival is close to the Honjo Station. The procession starts from Kanasana shrine which is about a 20 minute walk from the station. On Google Maps.
Kanasana Shrine is about a ten minute drive from the Honjo-Kodama Interchange of the Kanetsu Expressway. There are six different car parks, marked with blue circles in the map above.
Find even more things to do in Saitama this autumn here.