Articles by Simon Bernard    

Fire, colorful regalia, and spectacular dancing herald the coming of spring at the 2007 ENBURI FESTIVAL in HACHINOHE



If you are ready to say good-bye to the snow and are waiting for warm weather, you will want to join the thousands of Japanese who come together to see the rites of spring at the Enburi Festival held in Hachinohe City. For four days beginning February 17th, during the time of the Lunar New Year, this festival is held to hasten the arrival of spring.

Enburi, a traditional folk event in the Hachinohe area, is held on February 17th to the 20th every year. It started as an occasion for farmers to pray for a good harvest, and is said to date back more than 800 years. It was designated as Important National Intangible Cultural Asset by the national government in 1979. The dancing by the children's groups are exceptional and a must see.

Enburi has changed and developed during its long history. Today, it is a major event and loved by the citizens as a call for spring to come to the Hachinohe area.

It is said that the name Enburi comes from a tool the dancers use in their performance. It is a farming tool called ”Enburi,” which was used to plow or level the soil in rice paddies.

Each group includes three to five dancers called “Tayuu”. The headgear worn by the Tayuu is called “Eboshi”. It represents the head of a horse used to work farmland, and is decorated with flowers, pictures of farming scenes, and images expressing long life, happiness, a rich harvest, etc. This headgear is considered to be a sacred object.

Performances represent work in rice paddies. The dancers’ motions of almost touching their headgear to the ground and hitting the ground with their tools is meant to wake up the spirit believed to be sleeping underneath and to pray for it to use its power to bring a good harvest. It has religious meaning that brings a feeling of well-being to the local people.

The coats worn by these dancers are called “Happi”, and their footwear, which is made of rice straw, is called “Tsumago”. These are very old fashions that you never see today, except at events like Enburi.

The Enburi groups also include participants dressed like the Seven Deities of Good Fortune, such as “Ebisu”(the god of riches) and “Daikoku” (the god of abundance), who sing and dance. Each group, which consists of 15-20 people, includes bells, etc.

A leader of each group “Enburi” carries a special tool which is called "Zai". A "Zai" used by a leader when he gives direction to the member of Enburi.

About 40 participating groups roam around the town to pray for a good harvest and happiness during the coming year. When Enburi is over, the footsteps of spring begin to be heard in this northern area.

There are 4 different festival sites in downtown Hachinohe were you can see the different aspects of this unique event. On Saturday, February 17th, starting at 10:40 to 11:20 all the dancers parade the downtown streets in the sections of Juu-san-nichi machi, Mikka machi and Muika machi. No admission fee. This is one of the best places to see everything at one time.

Saturday and Sunday, February 17th and 18th at the Hachinohe Kokaido (Public Hall), there will be a 3 hour show of Enburi dancers and singers from 13:00 to 16:00. There is a 1000 yen entrance fee. Junior High School children and younger are free if they accompanied by an adult. Advanced tickets at 900 yen can be purchased at The Hachinohe Tourist Plaza located in front of the Hachinohe train station. Telephone number 0178-27-4243. Same day tickets can be purchased at the door.

In front of the City Hall, every evening Sat., Sun. and Mon., there will be the Enburi fire dancing show at 18:00, 19:00 and 20:00. There will also be a dance show here Mon. and Tues., Feb. 19th and 20th at 13:00 and 14:00.

Entrance to these events is free. Be sure to pop into the City Hall lobby to see a mini-float of the 3 Shrine summer festival! And you can walk across the street to the Nanbu Kaikan to see a photo exhibition and watch a mini workshop where they make the Enburi costumes.

There will also be a special dance called the Oniwa Enburi held at the garden of the Kojokaku Temple every evening Feb.17th to the 22nd at 18:00 and 20:00. The dancers perform in the garden while the spectators sit on cushions under the roof of the temple. This is a very spectacular event but seating is extremely limited. Tickets go on sale Jan.10th and sell out early so make arrangements soon if you want to go.

To see this event you must buy a ticket in advance. For an English speaker to help you reserve a ticket call the Hachinohe Tourist Plaza at 0178-27-4243, ask for Ms. Sachiko Suzuki during business hours. Entrance is 1000 yen. Children 3 years and under are free but must sit on your lap. Please do not come to this event if you were not able to buy a ticket. You will also have to go to the Hachinohe Tourist Plaza to pick up the ticket in advance.

There will be free refreshments of Amazake (Hot sweet sake, non-alcoholic) and Senbei jiru (hot local soup with senbei crackers).





All event sites are downtown Hachinohe and are within walking distance from the Hon-Hachinohe train station.
Take the train from the Misawa station to the Hachinohe station and transfer to the Hon-hachinohe station.

By Car:

To get to the Hachinohe City Hall and Hachinohe Kokaido(Public hall), located next to each other. Go out the Falcon (POL) gate and start counting traffic lights. Turn left at the 12th light to get on the Dai Ni (No.2) Michinoku Expressway. At the 1st toll booth, pay 250 yen and get a ticket. Continue straight (you will go past the Shimoda) and then get off at the Hachinohe Kita Interchange. Pay the toll and turn right at the light. You are now on Rt.45. Go 6.2km turning right at the 8th light (this is the same light where the Hachinohe McDonalds is). Turn right at the 4th light (right after you go underneath the train tracks) turn left at the next light (this is the light in front of the Hon-Hachinohe train station). Go 0.3km and take a hard right. You are now in between the City Hall and the Public Hall. A little further down on the right is a pay parking lot. If parking is full, U-turn and go back to the road and turn right, as soon as you pass under the pedestrian overpass, turn right, this road goes down the under the sidewalks and if you follow this road to the end you will com to another pay parking lot. Pay parking lots: When you go in get a ticket from the machine, pay when you exit.


To get to the Kojokaku:

When you get to the light in front of the Hon-Hachinohe station, instead of turning left, go straight and turn left at the first Y.† 0.4km later turn right, (look for the ladyís face on the billboard). Go to the end of this road (the road will T at the light). The Kojokaku will be across the street a little to the left of the T. Turn right at the T, there will be a pay parking lot on the right hand side. Park and go across the street. Go into the drive way on the right and go straight back into the temple area, the festival site is in the back of the temple in the garden area.


Other Related Special Events

An Enburi exhibition will be featured at the Hachinohe City Museum from February 3rd to March 11th. At this same time they will have a display of 200 Hina Dolls from all over Japan as well. To get to the museum, get off at the Hachinohe Kita I.C. and turn right at the light on Rt.45.

About 2.9 km go down the left ramp to the light with the gas station and turn right (going toward the fish market). Count traffic lights (3.8km.) and turn left at the 7th light right after the bridge (there will be a pachinko parlor on the right). Go 600 meters and the museum will be on the left.