Fairy tales and legends that spring to life in Three Shrine Festival
Every year from July 31 to August 4, the northern port city of Hachinohe fills the air with the booming sounds of drums, flutes, and ecstatic chanting as it holds the Sansha Taisai or Three Shrine Festival. Amongst the sultry heat of the summer, 27 decorated floats are pulled through the streets, some of which reach up to three stories tall. To navigate the narrow and winding roads of Hachinohe, the floats collapse and unfold out again as they weave throughout the streets. This has led to the interesting evolution of the floats over the decades so that now they seem almost like moving scenes from pop-up books. Each float is decorated meticulously to depict scenes from Japanese and Chinese legends, folk tales, and plays. The floats are made by different neighborhood organizations within the city, where community members gather together after work to construct these wonders by hand deep into the night. The floats can take months to make and are deconstructed and remade each festival season. This has led to friendly but fierce competitions brewing between the different float groups to see who can make a better, more beautiful, and awe-inspiring float every year.