Festivals & Events
Nagahama Hikiyama Festival 長浜曳山まつり
Celebrate children's kabuki all over town in one of Japan's three greatest float festivals
The Nagahama Hikiyama Festival, held in mid-April in the Hikone area, is a matsuri devoted to kabuki performed by children. The festival starts off at Nagahama Hachimangu Shrine , but if you arrive on a festival day, you'll see activities all around town.
- Seeing a show against the backdrop of Nagahama Hachimangu Shrine
- Watching children perform 40-minute plays
- Seeing the floats off-duty at the Nagahama Hikiyama Museum
How to Get There
To get to the shrine, take the Tokaido Shinkansen to Maibara. The ride takes just over 2 hours from Tokyo or 20 minutes from Kyoto . Then take the Hokuriku Line to Nagahama , about a 15-minute ride. The shrine is roughly 15 minutes on foot from JR Nagahama Station.
Bringing kabuki to the streets
Legend has it that the Nagahama Hikiyama Festival started more than 400 years ago to celebrate the birth of a son to local warlord Hideyoshi Toyotomi. Ever since, communities in Nagahama have maintained the massive, gorgeous hikiyama floats as a matter of local pride. Unlike other float parades in Japan, Nagahama's hikiyama serve as portable stages for yet another marvel, kodomo kabuki (children's kabuki).
Kids take center stage
Kodomo kabuki stars young boys ages five to 12. They spend their school holidays mastering kabuki performances, complete with costumes and makeup.
Each year on April 14 and 15, four of the town's hikiyama are chosen by lottery. They will be pulled through town while the child actors put on a virtuoso show. When not on the move, the kids will strike poses, providing the perfect photo opportunity.
A listed UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage
The Nagahama Hikiyama Festival is one of Japan's biggest float festivals and was inscribed on UNESCO's list of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2016. The main festival days are April 14 and 15 but check for other events throughout April. If you can't make it to Nagahama in time for the festival, you can see the floats and learn more about the tradition at the Nagahama Hikiyama Museum.