The Shinane Festival: Experience Kochi City’s Most Important Shinto Festival at Tosa Shrine
September 9, 2016
The Shinane Festival
People in Kochi say that summer begins with the Wanuke Festival in June and ends with the Shinane Festival in August. Held on the third day of the seventh month according to the lunar calendar (around August 24-25), Shinane is the largest and most important of the three Shinto festivals celebrated annually at Tosa Shrine in the Ikku district of Kochi City. Festival-goers give thanks to the gods for the blessings they have already bestowed and wish for continued peace and prosperity.
A long line of festival-goers pray for good luck and health in the future
There are various theories regarding the origins of the name Shinane. One suggests that the name comes from the wind god Shinanehico who makes the typhoon winds blow during the summer. Another states that it comes from the Japanese word for the new rice (新稲 : shin-ine) that is planted at this time of year.
In any case, the festival marks the changing of the seasons and expresses hopes for a bright future.
Paper lanterns light up the shrine and the night
The historic Tosa Shrine in Ikku, Kochi City
Although the exact date of Tosa Shrine’s foundation is unknown, it is estimated to be at least 1300 years old as it was mentioned in Japanese history books written during the early 8th century (the Nihon Shoki and the Kojiki). As the oldest and largest shrine in Kochi, it has been designated an Important Cultural Property by the Japanese government.
Two deities – Ajisuki-Taka-Hikone-no-Kami (味鋤高彦根神) and Hitokoto-Nushi-no-Kami (一言主神) – are enshrined here. Although the shrine has many different visitors, sailors commonly visit to pray for a good catch and a safe return home.
Korou– Brightly-coloured tower in front of the shrine
Wanuke ring – even when the Wanuke festival isn’t being held, visitors can still cleanse themselves of bad energy by walking through this ring
Please wash your hands before approaching the shrine!
Ceremony and Events
Torch burning in front of Tosa Shrine
Shinto priests lighting torches that will burn for two days
Shinane officially begins at 6 a.m. on the first day of the festival when Shinto priests gather at the shrine to say a few prayers and light the pine torches (called otaimatsu お松明） that will burn continuously for two days to ward off evil spirits. Although visitors are welcome, few spectators usually attend this early morning event that is carried out with quiet ceremony as the sun starts to light up the green hills.
Visitors mingle amongst the numerous night stalls
In the evening, however, close to 160 night stalls open up and a bustling crowd arrives. Visitors can try typical festival foods like kakigori, takoyaki, cotton candy, and okonomiyaki while enjoying traditional music and dancing.
There are many food stalls selling all kinds of food
Taiyaki – usually filled with bean paste or custard but often also available with chocolate or cheese.
After praying at the shrine, many visitors also purchase otaimatsu, singe them in the torches, and bring them home to ensure good health for the rest of the year.
Otaimatsu waiting to be burned
The omikoshi is carried over hopeful visitors
On the second day, there are a variety of ceremonies, most notably the main Shinkou (神幸） Ceremony in the afternoon. Participants carry an omikoshi, or portable shrine, to transport the resident deity from one location to the next. Visitors crouch down to let the omikoshi pass over them in hope that it will bring good luck and keep away the bad.
Taiko drum used during the Shikou Ceremony
An Important Part of Kochi’s History and Culture
Festivals that mark important seasonal events – like cherry blossom and moon viewing – are common all across Japan, but each festival reveals the local character of the towns and shrines that host them. The Shinane Festival and Tosa Shrine are integral parts of Kochi’s history and culture. Any visitor to Kochi should consider stopping by Tosa Shrine and, if they happen to be there at the right time, attending the Shinane or another festival.
The procession continues out into the streets.
From Kochi Station, take a bus and get off at “Tosa Jinja Mae”. From there it’s a 3 min. walk.
2-16-1 Shinane, Kochi City, Kochi Prefecture
Website (Japan National Tourism Organization):
Currently working as an ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) in Kochi City, Sarah is a Canadian expat who spends her free time exploring Kochi Prefecture and trying to devise a better way to keep the tanukis out of her garden. She enjoys going to local festivals and eating too much mochi.