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Shodo Island Autumn Festivals and Performances

Drum roll please … Taiko or "Big" drum roll that is. It's Autumn Performance & Festival Time on Shodoshima!

New York, NY ... August 17, 2005 ... Culture, cuisine, adventure, spas, spiritual pilgrimages … These are just a few of the many reasons to visit Shodoshima - the second largest of the more than 700 islands in Japan's Seto Inland Sea (sea that separates Japan's main island, Honshu, from the nation's 4th largest island, Shikoku). But come the autumn harvest season, you can add yet another reason to make that "tourist pilgrimage." It's festival time!

Start with the Nakayama Farmers' Kabuki … On National Holiday known as "Sport Day," the second Monday in October (October 10, 2005), the farmers of Shodoshima ("shodo" means red bean and shima means island) will literally "come out to play." Local men and boys (and now also girls) from around the Nakayama area gather at Kasuga Shrine in Ikeda village. They are amateur actors, but proud members of the Nouson Kabuki Hozonkai, the "Rural Kabuki Conservation Organization." Performing in their authentic, home-spun costumes on the shrine's historic thatched-roofed outdoor stage -- still standing since 1830 -- they present selected national and regional kabuki plays handed down for centuries. The autumn performance begins at 5 p.m. and continues for about 5 hours with intermission. There is no fee, and tourists are welcome to join the native spectators, who sit on blankets to witness the show. (Note: a similar Farmers' Kabuki is also held at Hitoyama Hachimangu Shrine in Tonosho village at the start of the rice planting season, around May 3. This play begins at 3 p.m.)

The Farmers' Kabuki is a 300-year-old tradition that is performed nowhere else in Japan and has been designated an important cultural property of Shodoshima. It inaugurates ten-plus days (Oct. 11-21, 2005) of celebrations at nine Hachimangu shrines around Shodo Island. At each shrine, colorfully decorated Taiko drum floats, topped with dolls and papier-mache animals, are paraded about on the shoulders of the shrine parishioners, who compete with one another in skillful feats of maneuvering. Floats, such as a replica of an Imperial boat pulled on horse-drawn carts, also entertain the crowds.

Each of the different districts on Shodoshima celebrates the harvest festival in its own slightly unique way. In Tonosho, you'll spy sturdy men carrying red-roofed drum floats charging in a straight line down the racetrack. At Fukuda Hachimangu you'll watch lion dancing performed to purify the front of the Taiko. At Uchinomi Hachimangu you'll be fascinated by Noborisashi, a rare form of skillful flag raising and balancing, where young people wearing yukata raise a heavy eight-meter flag attached to a thick bamboo pole and allow it to strategically fall upon their forehead and shoulders. In Kounoura village, you can watch with binoculars from Ikeda port, as drums approach from their 1½ mile voyage by rowboat accompanied by a dancing crew brandishing banners and sai (samurai period swords).

The highlight of all these festivals occurs on the morning of October 16, when about 20 Taiko drum floats from each locality converge on Kameyama Hachimangu Shrine accompanied by bearers chanting the Iseondo, a traditional song praising Ise Shrine. At the shrine, the bearers lift the huge floats and display their strength and skill in rolling the floats from side to side or lifting them above their heads. In the afternoon, the floats proceed out of the shrine and compete with each other in front of the saijiki, an ancient amphitheater with tiered stone seats that is another important cultural property. This performance is followed by the neri, in which men raise wooden sticks and swords and sing, accompanied by the percussion of two wooden sticks beaten together. The festival concludes with the Chigonomai, a ceremonial dance performed by children.

More to Autum in Shodoshima than Festivals …

Do come to Shodoshima for the fall festivals, but stay for even more. Autumn brings with it a chance to witness the rice harvest from some of the very few terraced rice fields in Japan and the olive harvest from the only olive trees in Japan -- introduced from Greece in 1908. In fact, there are an array of green olive harvest events throughout September and October most of them held in - you guessed it -- Olive Park! On the first Sunday in October (October 2, 2005), you can join one of two "Olive Walks," 10 and 20 km walking races, beginning at Uchinomi Sougou Undou kouen athletic grounds, where a flea market is also held.

In addition, the fall harvest and spring planting seasons mark Shodoshima's two major Buddhist pilgrimage periods. During the 8th Century, when envoys sent to China by the Imperial family brought back the "new religion," the monk Kukai (Kobo Daishi) introduced Shingon Buddhism to fishermen on the nearby larger island of Shikoku. Kukai, teaching that enlightenment could be achieved through the recitation of Buddhist scriptures, inspired construction of the 88 temples ("8" is a holy number symbolizing all of humanities passions and desires) that make Shikoku internationally famous for its month-long pilgrimages. However, shortly after establishing the route on the 7,063 square mile Shikoku Island, Kukai fashioned a "mini-route" of 88 temples and worship sites on the only 60 square mile Shodo Island. This route can be completed in a one-week visit, easier on pilgrims and tourists alike.

The Olivean Resort Makes Shodoshima Travel and Touring Easy …

The 111-Room Olivean Resort - Shodoshima's largest and most upscale resort facility, named after the island's plethora of olive groves, offers you an opportunity to partake in all of this and more. Tours can be organized to the kabuki, the harvest, and recommended temples on the 88 temple route. The Olivean will even arrange for guests to attend an authentic Buddhist purification ritual. At Emonnotaki, the 81st Temple, guests have attended the Goma ceremony. Here the priest burns wooden sticks -- on which worshippers write their names, prayers or wishes, and ask Buddha to help fulfill their dreams and eliminate evil from their lives. The fire, intensified with sesame oil, spices, and incense also "feeds Buddha's mouth."

Hiking around Shodoshima's hilly terrain affords spectacular, misty views of the Inland Sea's island dotted paradise, and a ropeway ride across the Kankakei Ravine (700 yen, about $7) offers a picturesque view of Shodo itself. These scenes are even more vivid in mid-to-late November, when the island's foliage is ablaze in gorgeous crimsons and golds. When staying at the Olivean, these stunning views can even be enjoyed from the resort's cliff-side rotunburo - soothing outdoor hot spring bath. And, don't forget to scrub yourself down before the soak with Shodo's own natural olive oil spa treatments.

Shodoshima is just a 75-minute flight plus a 30-minute high-speed ferry ride from Tokyo, but it's a world away from bustling, big city stress and crowds. Air inclusive packages from the United States vary from deluxe, escorted tours to independent rail packages. Travelers can select from 8-days/6 nights, 9-days/7-nights or 10-days/8-nights, incorporating three to four days on Shodo at the Olivean Resort with time in other areas of Japan - Tokyo, Kyoto or Osaka on Honshu or Mastuyama and Takamatsu on Shikoku. Information on tour packages can be found on JNTO's website at the following link: A special land-only package, organized by the Olivean Resort itself, allows tourists to pay for five nights and stay a sixth night free In addition to the Olivean Resort, Shodo Island accommodations include business hotels, minshuku (guest houses), ryokan (Japanese inns) and two youth hostels. JNTO can provide more detailed information on accommodations and transportation. You can email JNTO through out website at:

Information is provided as a courtesy to users of this website. Though the JNTO endeavors to ensure the information is accurate, users of the information are to act on such using their own judgement and at their own risk. Neither the JNTO nor any holder of copyright to the information shall be held responsible in any way whatsoever for any loss or misunderstanding, either direct or indirect, that is incurred as a result of utilizing the information.

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