After visiting the beautiful Hamamatsu Castle Park in the morning, I took a short bus ride and spent the afternoon staring at the great kites in the Hamamatsu Festival Pavilion and taking a walk on the Nakatajima Sand Dunes.
The Hamakita Area of Hamamatsu City in Shizuoka Prefecture (map) offers many tourist attractions. One of them is the Hamamatsu Festival Pavilion (浜松まつり会館).
The architecture of the building is quite nice and modern. I think it’s easy to spot, so you won’t miss it no matter if you come by bus or by car.
Just in case there’s also a huge sign in front of the building.
As you can see the area around the pavilion is quite nice and if you have some extra time I suggest taking a walk before going to the Nakatajima Sand Dunes that are just a few hundred meters away.
What you’ll find inside the Hamamatsu Festival Pavilion
Hi-Vision pictures and the light inside the hall will make you feel as if you’re participating in the Hamamatsu Festival.
About the Hamamatsu Festival
The Hamamatsu Festival takes place during Golden Week on May 3rd, 4th and 5th. It attracts over 1.5 million people each year and is one of the most prominent Japanese festivals.
It’s famous for “Takoage Gassen” (凧揚げ合戦, Kite Battles) and beautifully decorated floats. Huge square-shaped kites will compete with each other to the sound of trumpets. It is exciting to watch the “fights” where one team tries to cut their opponents’ kite strings by friction.
There is a legend that the festival originated in the 16th century when the Lord of Hikuma Castle (now known as Hamamatsu Castle) wanted to celebrate the birth of his first son by raising a kite with his son’s name written on it. (* Please note: This was probably Lord Imagawa who lived in the castle before the famous Ieyasu Tokugawa moved in.)
The float parades of Hamamatsu Festival
At night there’s a parade with almost a hundred floats in the center of Hamamatsu City. The parade is accompanied by traditional Japanese music. Originally this was meant to welcome the contestants who returned from the kite battle. Each community designs their own float. They are called “Gotenyatai” (ご殿屋台) and usually are decorated with paper lanterns and carvings.
It is believed that this tradition goes back to the fact that the huge kites had to be transported back home using a large 2-wheeled vehicle, resembling a rickshaw. Over the years this vehicle was changed to look more and more like the floats that are used nowadays.
The photo above shows the “Parade Float Display Hall” where you can not only see the beautiful floats, but also hear the sound of the festival. It is very realistic and you’ll feel as if you’re taking part in the real thing.
A variety of lanterns that are used during the festival are displayed in the matsuri hall.
A typical kite size is about 2-3.6 square meters. 1.25 square meters are equal to 12 sheets of traditional Japanese mino paper.
Each kite has its own pattern and design. They are based on the origins of each community name. They often represent historical events.
Personally I really enjoyed staring at all the interesting designs! There’s so much to see and so many tiny but lovely details. Take your time when you go there!
The festival has so much to offer and it’s exciting for young and old.
The taiko drums that are used during the parade of the festival are also displayed in the pavilion. As I love taiko performances, I’m sure I’d enjoy the festival a lot.
Extra tip: Every 2nd and 4th Sunday of a month you can take a kite making class! Please make a reservation in advance.
I enjoyed my visit a lot! I learned so much about the festival. There was even a video on a huge flat screen that made me want to go back in May and attend the festival. (No, I haven’t yet.)
I’m sure it’s an awesome festival and I’d love to see it one day live.