Unfortunately, for the second year in a row the unique Hirakata Gion Doroinkyo Mud Festival has been cancelled due to the Coronavirus.
Hirakata Gion Doroinkyo Mud Festival
The Hirakata Gion Doroinkyo Mud Festival is not only an “Only in Japan” festival, it is an “Only one of its kind” festival. Due to the uniqueness, illustriousness and rarity of this special event it has been designated an intangible folk cultural asset by Saitama Prefecture.
It is held annually on the day before “Umi No Hi”, which is the July public holiday. In 2020 the event was not held due to the Coronavirus outbreak. The next date (all things being equal) will be Sunday July 18th 2020.
The festival uses a Mikoshi (palanquin or portable shrine), but not the elaborate mikoshi you usually see at summer festivals. It is a plain wooden portable shrine. The reason is, as the name of the festival suggests, it gets very muddy…
The shrine is carried into gardens and sprayed with water then rolled in mud until it is covered. Each garden lays out offerings which is another distinctive element of this festival. Buckets of water are thrown over the mikoshi and the bearers regularly. The bearers of the shrine also get covered in mud and its not unusual for a spectator to get splashes or more of mud. Avoid high heels and white shirts if you plan to go along to witness one of Saitama’s (indeed Japan’s) rarer traditional festivals.
Halfway through the parading of the mikoshi from garden to garden, they take it down to the river for a ritual water blessing. And then its back to the mud!
You can read a first hand report of the festival in English here: Hirakata Gion Doroinkyo Mud Festival – myjapantravels
For more on the history and traditions of the festival click here (bilingual).
Access the mud festival in Ageo
The mud festival is held in the Hirataka area of Ageo. If you’ve ever been to Maruyama Park in Ageo, chances are you’ve passed the shrine from where the shrine is carried. There is a very small car park but you can’t use it on the day. It is best to take a bus from JR Ageo station and alight at “Hirakata Shrine”. It is a 5 minute walk from that bus stop. Map in the grey details box at the bottom of the post.
For more special festivals and summer events in Saitama please see the main event pages.