Kasedori Festival, or “Strawbird Festival”, is a unique yet bizarre Japanese event. Performers gather at Kaminoyama Castle dressed in straw coats - meant to honour the legendary bird “Kasedori”.
The Kasedori festival dates back to the 1600s, when the region was once ravaged by fire. It was said that the legendary bird “Kasedori” brought water to put out these fires - earning the respect and devotion of the locals. Since then, the people of Kaminoyama, Yamagata gather every winter to pray for fire prevention and a prosperous year. The Kasedori festival is held on 11th February every year, also known as National Foundation Day.
During the Festival
The celebrations begin at the Entrance Gate Square (上山城正門前広場 Monzen Hiroba) of the castle, with a prayer around the bonfire for safety and good fortune. Afterwards, men perform while donning bird-shaped straw coats, or “Kendai”, and cry out “Kakkakaa!”, a sound imitating the cry of a bird. The festival attendees join in the fun by spraying performers with cold water. It is believed that all who get splashed by the water will be blessed for the year. Amidst the activity, pieces of straw often drop off from the Kendai. These straws are believed to bring good fortune when tied to the hair of a young girl - blessing her with a lifetime of luscious, black hair.
The festivities start at the castle grounds, continue towards the direction of Kaminoyamaonsen station and end off in Ueyama city. For those who wish to join in (or watch from the sidelines), head to Kaminoyama to witness one of Japan’s weirdest festivals.
Find out more about the Top 10 Weird Events in Japan.