Hikiyama Museum

Hikiyama Museum

These festival juggernauts are known as moving museums for all the art they embody

place Area: Nagahama access_time Published: 2020.12.03

Name in Japanese: 曳山博物館
Pronunciation: hikiyama hakubutsukan

The Hikiyama Festival is one of several festivals held in Nagahama. Based around Nagahama Hachimangū Shrine, it’s held every year from April 9 ​​to 17.

Hikiyama are juggernauts, huge decorative carts with stages on which children perform kabuki to entertain festivalgoers. The carts are decorated with carvings, metal fittings, and paintings that bring together traditional crafts from the Edo period, which is why they’re considered moving museums. The boys who are selected for the kabuki undergo long and rigorous training before they’re painted and attired splendidly for their performances during the festival.

The origins of the Hikiyama Festival start with Hashiba Hideyoshi who established Nagahama as his castle town around 1574. At that time, he held a procession of warriors called “Tachi Watari” which is still held at the Hikiyama Festival. Later he gave gold dust to the townspeople to celebrate the birth of a son. Using this, each town created a juggernaut called a Hikiyama and dragged it to Hachimangū Shrine.

Hideyoshi exempted Nagahama from tax, ensuring that it prospered from trade. The wealth that accumulated in the town was reflected in the ornamentation of the Hikiyama, which is amply on display in this museum. The festival is recognised as UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Outside, the museum is conspicuous for its modern yet traditional design, which harmonises well with its surroundings. Inside, it’s large and spacious and the Hikiyama are displayed in glass-walled rooms so that you can see them in their entirety. From the second floor, you can also look down into a workshop where the juggernauts are stripped down for overhaul. You may see a craftsman at work maintaining the complex structure.

Other exhibits cover the children’s kabuki, preparation for the festival, and life in the traditional houses of Nagahama. There are dioramas, photographs, videos, and scale models.