Beginning over 250 years ago, the Otabi Festival is Komatsu’s biggest event. One of Ishikawa’s biggest festivals, it attracts thousands of visitors from around the country and overseas to see the traditional hikiyama floats, and the children’s kabuki plays.
The Otabi Festival orginated as the spring festival of two major shrines in Komatsu, Uhashi and Motoori Hiyoshi. It takes its name from one of the key festival events, the mikoshi procession. Mikoshi, or portable shrines, are traditionally carried around the local neighbourhood to allow the Gods to inspect their surroundings. In Japanese this procession is referred as 旅をする、tabi wo suru.
The more famous portion of the festival was added in 1776, when local merchants incorporated hikiyama floats into the festival. What is unique about hikiyama is that they double as stages for kabuki plays. And what is distinct about Komatsu’s hikiyama is that the kabuki plays staged on them during the Otabi Festival are traditionally only performed by girls, in direct contrast to the typical kabuki performed only by men.
Komatsu City comes alive as performances, food stalls and events cover the city, and temples hold their annual mikoshi processions. This is an event not to be missed!
Japan Children’s Kabuki Festival
Beginning in 1999, a festival conveying the charm of Komatsu’s rich kabuki culture, during which children’s kabuki troupes from around the country gather and perform upon the grand stage of Urara Theater. Of course, the headliner act is always Kanjincho, enacted by Komatsu’s very own elementary school children.
A marine-centered festival held every September in Ataka, as befitting of a port town. Instead of the typical festival floats, boats called hikifune (lit. “pulled boats”) are paraded around town.
What are hikifune? Due to the shallow waters of Ataka Port, the large Kitamae-bune trading ships that used to dock at the port had to be moored offshore. Thus, small boats were used to carry cargo from ship to shore. Those boats were then often pulled around town with their sails raised. Ataka Festival and its symbolic hikifune are modelled after that very practice.
Look out for the seven deities of good fortune mounted on the hikifune, and keep your ears peeled for the kiyari-ondo chants of the local residents, which serve as prayer for safe voyages, big catch, and of course, happiness.
Don Don Festival
A lively city-wide commemoration of Lord Maeda Toshitsune’s (the Ishikawa region’s former feudal lord) move to Komatsu Castle, which sparked the flourishing of Komatsu as both an industrial and cultural center. “Don Don” symbolizes the boom of taiko drums, one of the many traditional arts that prospered in Komatsu, and serves as a rally for the Komatsu community to unite in protecting inherited traditions while inventing new ones.
During the festival, food stands, markets and performances by local dance and music troupes liven up the entire city!