Iwanai Shrine Reitaisai Festival

Iwanai Matsuri Parade Koichi Matsuda Photo

Photo by Koichi Matsuda. Lined up outside Iwanai Shrine.

This is a festival that is old and culturally rich. The festival's roots go back over 200 years, drawing on old traditions of both Japanese settlers and the indigenous Ainu people who were the main inhabitants of Hokkaido prior to the Meiji Restoration.

The main festival ceremony is a parade where Iwanai Shrine's two o-mikoshi (portable shrine alters) are taken from the temple and carried around the town and port. These portable alters are incredibly heavy and require teams of volunteers to support them. They are taken through the streets and raised with chants to wish good luck upon local businesses and homes.

As the parade comes to a close, the two shrines are loaded onto fishing boats and raced through the harbour.

Iwanai Reitosai Festival Boat Fleet Koichi Matsuda Photo

Photo by Koichi Matsuda. Racing through the harbour.