Annual Events of Yakushima
Various traditional events are cherished and practiced throughout the year in Yakushima. They are slightly different by each village as they have once been separated by rivers and mountains. These traditions that have been passed down by generations have strengthen our community and remind us the importance of living with nature. There are other interesting events, so please refer to the event calendar on the Japanese site.
On January 7th, many villages burn a picture of Oni (Japanese demon) with New Year decorations such as pines and sacred straw festoons that were displayed at the gates of people’s houses. They perform this at an open space at a beach or seashore. Fire is used to exorcise misfortune, purify the body, and bring good fortune for the upcoming new year.
- Waiting for moonrise on the twenty-third night
It was once a big event held in January. Villagers gathered together and waited for the full moon to reach its peak and people stayed up all night until sunrise. At the midnight, the appointed prayers visit shrines to pray for peace, safety and prosperity of the village for the upcoming new year. It was performed by the aristocracy in Kyoto at the beginning but the the custom spread among ordinary people in the 16th century. Many people still practice this custom, although it has become somewhat informal.
- Beach and Forest Opening Ceremony for the season
It is based on a Shinto ritual that prays for the safety of ocean and mountains throughout the season. It is performed so that no misfortune will come people’s way when bathing in the ocean or climbing mountains.
- Yakushima Sea Festival
In preparation of the arrival of sea turtles and tourist season, locals and volunteers clean ports and shores of each village in the morning. Various programs will be offered in the afternoon. You can participate in trials lessons in diving, kayaking, and snorkeling which will be assisted by volunteer guides. You can also ride on an underwater observation boat (Kamenko-go) or even the banana boat to enjoy the Yakushima’s sea. The venues will be held at different locations all over Yakushima.
- Miyanoura Spring Festival and Yaku-jinjya Shrine Annual Festival
It is a regular festival which is conducted by Yaku Shrine. It was once performed at the beginning of April on the 10th, but now it is performed at the end of April. Dedicatory mikoshi (parade) and yaku-jin drums are performed.
- Shitoko Gajumaru Festival
It is held at the Fishing Port Square in front of Gajumaru park in Shitoko village. The stalls selling vegetables and fish products that was produced in Shitoko area become popular and form a line at the beginning of May.
- Kusugawa Castle Festival
It is held at Jonkou in Kusugawa area where the old Kusugawa Castle once stood. The picture-story show, “Tales of Kusugawa Castle battle,” and the dance of “Children’s Gun Corps” are performed. There will be stalls selling vegetables and sweets.
- Jochiku Dance Dedication
It is a dance performance that was created by the people in Anbo in memory of Jochiku Tomari, the Yakushima saint, who had always used the money he earned for the islanders’ benefit. He also persuaded the felling of the cedar, which helped the finance of Yakushima through hard times.
- Shakunage (Rhododendron) Mountain Climbing
Supported by Yakushima Tourism Association, several different level of hiking courses are prepared. You can enjoy a pleasant hiking while looking at rhododendron that bloom in the mountains starting at the end of May. A small memento will be given upon the completion of a course you choose.
- Gion Festival
Approximately 300 years ago, there was an epidemic outbreak in the village, but it had subsided once the villagers prayed at the hot spring shrine. Since then, villagers go to Gion on June 15th of the lunar calendar and pray for good harvest and the health and safety of villagers. This became the Onoaida’s Gion Matsuri (festival) and “the stick dance” is dedicated as a performance.
- Haruo Gocho Dance Dedication
Until the beginning of Showa-era(1926-1989), Haruo Gocho dance was dedicated to Yaku-jinjya shrine on June 15th when Gion Matsuri was held. Gocho literally means 5 rhythms and it was elegantly coordinated by the Heian aristocrat in the form of 5 rhythms dance. The dance performance was restored 13 years ago.
- Issou Hama Festival
Supported by the fishermen’s Association of Isso, a fleet of fishing boats sail in front of the port. Each boat carries a banner that indicate abundant fish had been caught and about to make deliverance. Tsukamidori (take as much as you can hold) of mackerels are held, and stalls at the port in Isso sell sea and farm products.
- Goshinsai Festival (in Miyanoura )
This is a festival that is performed to show gratitude for the mountain god and to pray for peace and prosperity of villages. Young men go up the Shiratani Unsui Ravine to gather sacred water, which is called the Omizubiki (water-drawing) ceremony. They bring this water to a tower and use Sakaki (green leaves) to sprinkle it upon the congregation gathered below in hopes of good health and well-being of many families. Then a bonfire is lit at the mouth of Miyanoura River to invite the mountain deity to the village. Yakushima drums, traditional dance, and sometimes even fireworks make this festival an unforgettable one.
- Anbo Stick Dance Dedication
Stick dance is popular in Kagoshima and it is often danced in hopes of good harvest and abundant crops being yielded through out the season. In Anbo, however, it is also performed on the first day of Bon festival on August 15th.
- Mugio Naginata Dance
Naginata dance was inherited from Miyazaki prefecture in 1686 and the use of Japanese halberd is used in the performance. Men dress in a traditional outfit in a Yukata (dress) with a Hakama (Japanese trousers). They also wear a head band, Zori (Japanese sandals made of straws), and tuck their sleeves with a tasuki (sash). It is performed on August 15th.
- Summer Festival of Anbo
Summer festival is held in Anbo at the beginning of August. You can enjoy various events during the day, and night stall stands begin to serve delicious food from the evening. You can also see fireworks at night.
- Yakushima-cho Dragon Boat Meet (in Miyanoura )
Dragon boat race takes place under the glaring sun at the Miyanou River. Eight rowers and a navigator work in harmony to compete with other opponents that commence at the sound of traditional drums.
- Jugoya Tug of War
This is a traditional event in Yakushima island that is performed on the night of harvest moon at each village. The rope is around 30 cm thick and as much as 70 m long. It is said to represent a strong dragon or sometimes the water god. When the moon appears participants begins with a song of prayer. They pray for big catch for fish, good harvest and the safety of people. Then the tug-of-war begins.
- Nagamine village Revitalization Bargain
Being conscientious of the environment, Nagamine village holds a yard sale every year on the autumnal equinox day at the Nagaminne community center. You might find some wonderful antiques at a reasonable price!
- Waiting for moonrise on the twenty-third night
This is an event where people gather together as they wait for the moonrise on the twenty-third night. It is usually carried out on January 23 and September 23 followed by the lunar calendar. However, this is performed on September 23 of the solar calendar in Kusugawa village. An oblation of sacred wine (sake) is given to the god that protects people’s homes, and then people congregate at the Kuhon Temple from sunset to sunrise on September 23.
- Yakushima Forest Festival
This is a music festival that advocates zero tolerance for waste, which propagates the importance of taking care of natural environment through music appreciation. It is held in the forest after the rise of moon and variety of musicians from outside the island are invited to perform.
- Yudomari’s Umbrella Dance
This dance is dedicated in the precincts of Shinto shrine on November 23 that falls on a national holiday called the “Labor Thanksgiving Day.”
- Tabugawa Yam Festival
Yam is a special product produced in Tabugawa area, where Yam festival is held every year. You can also enjoy various games through events that are provided at the festival.
- Yakushima Aiko Festival
It is held in the square at the Koseda community center. There will be food stalls, bingo contest and other entertainments. Mochi-tsuki will also be performed, which is the pounding of steamed rice made into a dough in order to make rice cakes.
- Yakujin Drum New Year’s Eve Festival (in Miyanoura)
New Year’s Eve Festival is carried out in Yaku-jinjya Shrine precincts on the last day of the year. Members of Yakushima Drum Preservation Society perform a special program called “Yaku-jin Drum.” They hold a torch while dancing and playing traditional drums to purify the people who come to pay respects to the shrine.