Anjin Festival

Japan's Festival Calendar: August

Anjin Festival, Ito

Jennifer May

With a drum group (taiko) competition and amazing fireworks, the Anjin Festival is one of the best festivals in Shizuoka Prefecture.

When is the Anjin Festival?

The Anjin Festival is held August 8th - 10th.

Where is the Anjin Festival?

The Anjin Festival is held in Ito city, Shizuoka Prefecture, on the Izu peninsula (210 km south of Tokyo, 3 hours by car, one hour 50 minutes by express train). Ito city is famous for its onsen, sea views, art museums, gardens, and history. It has active onsen hot springs, and is one of the three largest onsen areas in Japan (Atami and Beppu are the other two).

The streets are lined with onsen hotels, and swimming beaches are all along sea. Some onsen hotels do allow visitors to use their onsen for a charge, without staying at the hotel. Many places have inside and outside onsen. Ito is a great place to relax and be surrounded by natural beauty. It is a wonderful get-away from city life.

Anjin Festival, Shizuoka, Japan.
Grave of William Adams in Hirado, Nagasaki Prefecture, Kyushu, Japan
William Adams, Anjin Festival, Shizuoka, Japan.
Tomb stone of William Adams in Hirado, Nagasaki Prefecture, Kyushu, Japan

What is the Anjin Festival?

The Anjin Festival commemorates the launching of the first western-style Japanese ships by sending festival lanterns down the Matsukawa River to float into the sea. There is a ceremony and parade. Activities include a concert and taiko drum competition. The main event of the Anjin festival is the fireworks display over the sea.

The drum (taiko) groups at the Anjin festival are top-notch. Japanese drums require athleticism as well as drumming form and expertise. The talent is impressive, and the performances are exciting to watch. Some groups are second only to the world-famous Kodo taiko troupe from Sado Island.

After the concert stage is closed on the night of the 10th, everyone flocks to the beach for the fireworks that bring the festival to a close. Don't lag behind too long buying beer and snacks on the way. The beach is crowded with blankets and chairs, and people are shoulder to shoulder sitting along the wall. The fireworks are set off continuously for an hour over the water. Not only is the sky illuminated, but the water is also glowing with the reflections. It is absolutely breath-taking. Boats sit out in the water positioned for prime firework viewing, too.

William Adams, Anjin Festival, Shizuoka, Japan.
Example of William Adams' handwriting in the British Museum, London
William Adams, Anjin Festival, Shizuoka, Japan.
Japanese trading vessel of the early Edo Period

Why the Anjin Festival?

As with all Japanese festivals, there is a great history behind this one. The Englishman from Gillingham, Kent, William Adams found himself washed up on Kyushu Island near today's Usaki city. His ship the De Liefde was the only ship left of the original fleet of five, and his crew had dwindled down to 24, of which only 9 were healthy enough to be on their feet.

Japanese locals, including the daimyo (later to be the Shogun) Tokugawa Ieyasu, and some Jesuit Priests from Portugal met the ship. The Jesuits claimed the crew to be pirates and wanted them crucified. Instead, Tokugawa imprisoned the crew at Osaka Castle and interrogated Adams. Adams impressed Tokugawa with his knowledge of shipbuilding and nautical mathematics.

In 1604, Shogun Tokugawa ordered William Adams and his crew to build Japan's first western-style ships. These ships were built in the Ito city shipyards. William Adams became a diplomatic and trade advisor to the Shogun. The Shogun was so impressed with Adams, Adams was given a house in Tokyo, two swords, and a badge of rank and authority. Adams, the English pilot became Samurai Miura Anjin with a fief at Hemi (today's Yokosuka) and a nice salary. He married Oyuki, the daughter of Noble Samurai Magome Kageyu, and had a son and daughter.

Today, a monument marks the foundation of Anjin's townhouse in Anjin-cho, and his grave is marked with his Japanese name in Hirado, Nagasaki prefecture.

How do I get to Ito?

From Tokyo Station on the "Kodamago" for Nagoya or Osaka, it takes 55 minutes to reach Atami Station. At Atami Station, transfer to the Ito Line going toward Izu Shimoda and ride for about 24 minutes to Ito Station.

From Tokyo Station, get the special express "Odorikogo" on the Izukyuko line for Shimoda, which takes about 1 hour and 50 minutes to Ito Station.

If you're driving, take the Tomei Highway in Tokyo and get off at the Atsugi Interchange, going to Odawara. Use the Atsugi-Odawara toll road, National Route 271. From Odawara take National Route 135 along the coast via Atami south towards Ito.

From Shizuoka JR Station, you can take the shinkansen (bullet train) to Atami. From Atami Station, take the Ito Line for Izu Shimoda to Ito Station.

Ito City Office 2-1-1 Ohara Ito-city Shizuoka prefecture 414
Tel: 0557 36 0111
Fax: 0557 38 2867

Ito City Tourist Office 1-8-3 Yukawa, Ito-city Shizuoka prefecture 414
Tel: 0557 37 6105
Fax: 0557 37 9006

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