Witness the Grand Acrobatic Feats of Hashigo-Nori
Coming of Age Day in Japan, celebrated every second Monday of January, is special for many Japanese youngsters as it is the day when they are recognised as adults. The age of adulthood in Japan was previously 20, but it was lowered to 18 in April 2022. In 2023, 18-year-olds in Japan will be deemed adults.
Young Japanese women dress to the nines in exquisite furisode - a kimono with long dangling sleeves and a decorative obi (sash) - and traditional Japanese thong sandals, topped off with beautiful hair and makeup. While it’s becoming more common to put on a Western suit and tie for men, there are some who still put on the traditional montsuki haori hakama, a combination of a full-length garment, a pleated and divided Japanese men’s skirt, and a traditional half coat.
Many different celebrations throughout Japan happen on this day too. One of these can be seen in Tokyo’s Ota Ward, a city surrounded by the Tama River and Tokyo Bay that is not only rich in culture but is also full of historical sites and breathtaking panoramic views. The celebration at Ota Ward takes place at Ota’s Ikegami Honmonji Temple, in the form of an acrobatic display by the Omori Steeplejack Association called hashigo-nori.
The Acrobatics of Hashigo-Nori
Hashigo-nori dates back to the Edo period. The performance includes acrobatics at the top of a 6-metre-long bamboo ladder. These moves were inspired by firefighters who scaled ladders to spot fires coming out of the city’s shorter wooden buildings. These wooden buildings were mainly one- or two-storey structures made from straw, wood, and other plant-based materials, and were very susceptible to fires.
The event usually starts with members of local groups who practice hashigo-nori, called the noriko (acrobatic performers), receiving blessings from the temple. They then carry their bamboo ladders and enter the temple courtyard. One of the bamboo ladders is then raised by the six noriko, who use ropes to secure and balance the ladder. Members of the team ascend the ladder to show off their acrobatic skills, either in a one- or three-person formation.
More Festivities on the Day at Ikegami Honmonji
The noriko strike various poses, each with historical meaning, on top of the ladder. The performance takes place at the Ikegami Honmoji Temple's courtryard, where more than 2000 visitors gather each year.
Any explanations and announcements are made in both English and Japanese to accommodate foreign guests. When the performance ends, delicious treats are thrown to the audience and photo opportunities with the performers are made available. The audience is also able to attempt some of the acrobatics, albeit on a much smaller ladder.
There is also an open-air market at the base of the hilltop temple’s staircase in the afternoon, allowing visitors to spend the entire day in the area.
Witnessing the hashigo-nori performance at the Ikegami Honmonji Temple is a unique way to enjoy the celebration of the Coming of Age Day in Japan!
ℹ️ The hashigo-nori event at Ikegami Honmonji Temple has been cancelled in 2023 due to circumstances brought about by the coronavirus. For more information, please visit the official website.