Sakai Matsuri has taken place during the third week of October, every year since 1974. The main parade is always along Oshoji Symbol Road, and includes performances from Sakai residents of various ages.
This year the 41st main parade, themed 'Sakai's 1600s Heritage,' took place on Sunday, the 18th of October, 2015. Apart from the grand parade, there was also a pre-parade party, grand tea ceremony and Namban market. These various events takes place over the course of two days with the grand parade being the finale.
The Namban Market, a place of interesting products and sales, is a recreation of the booming Middle Ages in Sakai. Popular sale items include: wagashi, kombu (type of seaweed), incense, and textiles. Apart from the reasonably priced items, and delicious food; there are performances too.
The 'Sakai's 1600s Heritage' grand parade was divided into five parts: Kofun Period, Middle Ages, Early Modern Era, Modern Era, and Present Day. There were more than 7000 participants, immeasurable performances and over 400,000 attendees.
The Kofun Period, 250-538, is when large tombs (kofun) was built for emperors of the ruling imperial dynasty. During the first section of the parade, marchers don the traditional dress of this era.
The Middle Ages, 1000- 1450, is when Sakai was a developed port-town and considered an Asian Venice. This was the time of prosperity through double cropping, trade, etc. However, it was also a time of Buddhism Enlightenment, Samurai Warriors, Hans, and War. During the second section of the parade, a Namban trade ship glides along Oshoji Symbol Road to display the prosperity of this era.
The ship is accompanied by marchers representing: the Miyoshi Clan (descendants of Emperor Seiwa), Sakai Bakufu nobles (heads of military government), Namban merchants, and Tea Masters. Tanegashima (Japanese matchlock guns), were used during this period, and so symbolic firings of the weapons were done throughout this phase of the parade.
The Early Modern Era (Edo Period), 1603-1838, was a period marked by: increased literacy, prolific cultural growth, productive agriculture, developed financial and marketing systems, developed infrastructure, strict social order and isolationist foreign policies. During this era, Korean envoys were sent to Japan, and their presence helped legitimize Tokugawa's rule. Thus, this section of the parade has marchers dressed as Korean envoys.
The Modern Era, 1912 - 1989, this era was marked by westernization (the remodeling of Japan's institutions based on Western ideas), industrialization and World War II. This section of the parade, had marchers depict the manufacturing success of Sakai during industrialization. This was done by presenting to the crowds things invented in Sakai. Clothing of this period is also worn thus instilling nostalgia in persons old enough to remember.
Present Day, 1990 to now, was marked by international recognition of Japanese popular culture such as anime and video games. This last section of the parade, showcased the dynamism of Sakai residents. These residents displayed their talents through playing instruments and performing traditional and contemporary dance.
The procession was brought to an elaborate end with several futondaiko floats. A futondaiko float weighs 1-2 tons, has a wadaiko in the center, and has to be carried by more than 40 people. This is typically used in festivals in the Kansai area.
It was a great event which gave a snapshot of Japanese history by literally bringing it to life. If you are in the area during October, and want a fantastic free cultural experience, attend Sakai's festival. I did and was provided more knowledge than I had expected; while having fun.