Kagoshima’s 3 big traditional events are said to be “Sogadon’s Kasayaki”, “Myoenji Temple Visit” and “Discussion on Loyal Ako Resteiners”. Luckily I happend to see one of those events, “Sogadon’s Kasayaki” festival at Kotsuki River, Kagoshima City, on 30 July 2016.
Umbrella Tower on River
When we were enjoying driving along Kotsuki River in evening of July, I discovered an unique object, a huge umbrella tower, at Kotsuki river, which flows in the middle of Kagoshima City, Japan. On the other side of the river bank, many people were enjoying watching plays of Chinese fiddles and Hawaiian dance.
Colorul Japanese umbrella towers are piled up and consisted of a tower. My wife taught me that the tower would be burnt during the festival “Sogadon’s Kasayaki” which literally means “Soga brothers burn umbrellas”. My wife and I had heard of the festival but had never visited the festival, so we dicided to watch the tower at the river bank.
The river bank was already crowded with lots of people who were watching the fesival, but luckily we could manage to park our car at the nearest coin parking lots. We sit at the safe leeward of the tower to avoid accidental fires. Before the tower is lit at 20:00, we enjoyed watching several plays of sword of Jigenryu-style (Traditional swordmanship of Kagoshima Prefecture). We found that those performers wer very cool! Following picture is sword performance.
Children and adults played Jigenryu-stele swordmanship. They hit the pile of trees with a sword while shouting in a large voice. They were so impressive!
Jigenryu-style swordmen slashes up at the same time. Later I learned that it was hard to avoid this movement of Jigenryu-style at the time of Samurai.
A small boy is brave enough to attack on a big adult man.
From the ancient time, Satsuma (old name of Kagoshima Prefecture) education has put emphasis on honesty, loyalty and bravery. It has told children not to “give up, tell a lie or bully on weak people”. I think that this mentality contributed the power of Meiji Restration in 1869 during which Kagoshima take an important role in modernization of Japan.
History of Kasayaki (Umbrella Burning)
The story derives from an old story of Soga brothers who took revenge on the killer of their father in 1193. When brothers went to the place of their enemy, they put fire on umbrellas it was rainy and dark. They scceeded in killing their enemy, but older brother lost his life during the attack and yonger brother was captured and sent to death sentence.
In fact, the story of Soga brothers are not of Kagoshima, but of Shizuoka Prefecture. Why is Shizuoka’s festival held in Kagoshima?
Brothers have been good examples for children, because Satsuma education has put emphasis on loyalty to their parents. In order to pay respects to Soga brothers, Satsuma people have burnt umbrellas every year for centuries. I think that the attitude of Satsuma is fantastic with reagard to taking good things into their education even if they are from other prefectures.
Umbrella is Lit!
The festival was scheduled at 19:30 according to the brochure, but fire was lit on the umbrella tower on 20:00. River banks were full of people who are watching the burning tower.
This is the another side of river bank.
Fires are lit on torches of young people.
Yong people circule the tower while singing the traditional song of “Soga brothers’ song” in a large voice.
The atmosphere was solemn.We concentrated on what was going to happen next.
The tower consists of as many as 200 umbrellas. The height is 8m. The tower is soon to be lighted!
Smoke came from the top of the tower and the internal tower is beautifully lighted as if it is a colorful lantern.
At the next moment, the tower started to burn intensely!
Huge fire wrapped up umbrellas in a blink of an eye.
Our skins felt the heat of the big fire. My wife and baby were surprised by the size of fire and lost words.
All guests gaze at the intense fire.
After the tower collapsed down, young people keep throw other 200 umbrellas into the fire. The bones of the tower consist of bamboo and they make large sounds when they explodes.
The silhouette of Samurai worrier was beautifully reflected on fire.
Young people continue to throw umbrellas in a shower of falling sparks.
All 400 umbrellas were burnt down in about 20 minutes. The fire got smaller and smaller.
According to the announce, it has become increasingly difficult for festival sponsors to collect Japanese paper umbrellas.
The fire of festival has delighted hearts of many people. I hope that this festival will continue eternally.
Video of Kasayaki
Map of Kasayaki
- Place：The festival is held at river bank near the Nanshu Bridges, Kagoshima City.
- Access：15 minutes by foot from Kagoshima Chuo Station.