Nada no Kenka

Himeji's fighting floats festival

Oct 14
Oct 15
Venue: Matsubara Hachiman Shrine When: Oct 14th - Oct 15th 2019

Nada Fighting Festival (Nada no Kenka) takes place every year on the 14th and 15th of October in Himeji, south Hyogo Prefecture of the Kansai region. “Nada” is the name of the area where the festival is celebrated and “Kenka" literally means fighting. It does get violent and dangerous for the participants. Although women can support, it’s only men who can participate in it.

The Nada area is made up of seven districts. Each one is identified by a particular color and its members wear a hachimaki (headband) of their colour during the celebration. The streets and houses of the districts are decorated with the colours as well.

Each of the seven areas has its own yatai (decorated float). This heavy structure is the main representation of the neighbourhood in the festival. The 2.5 tons of wood decorated with detailed carvings and silver and gold embroidered curtains is carried on the shoulders by more than fifty men at the same time. Inside, four drummers play taiko (Japanese drum) at all times. Even if the palanquin falls they continue playing.

Although all districts carry their yatai, there is only one that carries mikoshi. The difference is that the latter is a portable shrine. Every year a different community has the honor to carry it during the second day of the festival. There are three mikoshi; each one is carried by a specific age group.

On October 14th, all seven neighbourhoods prepare their yaitai and march to Matsubara Hachiman Shrine. It is here where the Gods give their blessing and a priest purifies each one of the wooden structures. The districts then give a small performance of next day’s main event. The yatai are jolted against other with great force. The atmosphere of the place turns to one full of energy and excitement. As spectacular as it seems, it is nothing compared to the following day.

2 floats in battle
2 floats in battle

Early morning of October 15th, the men carrying the mikoshi walk into the sea to purify themselves. Later the neighbourhoods carry their yatai to Matsubara Shrine again before the main event. Thousands of people already wait to observe how the three mikoshi forcefully strike one another. As the other 6 towns carry their yatai, they jolt against each other, causing amazing scenes full with chants and applause. At night, the mikoshi and yatai are exhibited again, but now with beautiful lights on their structure.

Preparing to lift the yatai
Preparing to lift the yatai

2016 Event Report

Honestly I’ve never experienced something as Nada no Kenka.

A powerful Japanese festival full of color, passion, tradition, and spirituality. It’s a celebration which surprises you every minute of its two consecutive days. No picture or description gives justice to it. You have to be there to believe what you are experiencing.

As well as the overview above, check out my in-depth reports on Day 1 and Day 2 from the festival.

After experiencing Nada no Kenka, I can now understand why locals anxiously look forward to this festival. Being part of it is truly an unforgettable experience.

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Jose Manuel Zardain

Jose Manuel Zardain @jose.manuel.zardain

Mexican photographer and travel passionate.

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Elena Lisina 7 months ago
Impressive and spectacular event!