The candidate site for the ILC lies in the Kitakami highlands of Iwate Prefecture, northern Japan. The city of Hanamaki is located in its central region, and is easily accessible by the Iwate Hanamaki Airport, the Shin-Hanamaki bullet train station, and the Tohoku Expressway. It’s also blessed with nature, and is popular with tourists because of the Hanamaki Hot Springs area, one of the most well-known hot springs in the Tohoku region. Hanamaki is also known for being the birthplace of the author Miyazawa Kenji, famous for writing the novel “Night on the Galactic Railway.” All in all, it’s a wonderful place for tourists to visit.

The Future City Galactic Railroad(Mural)


Hanamaki Hot Springs Area


A major attraction is in the Hanamaki Festival held in September every year. This festival boasts over four centuries of history and tradition, with 120 portable shrines hoisted throughout town, and traditional performances like the Shishi Odori dance – dancers wear masks representing deer and lions in order to ward off bad spirits. There’s so much to see, and the 120 portable shrines have even been recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records.


The Hanamaki Festival is said to have started in 1613 when the townspeople paraded about town in a show of respect for town founder and lord of Hanamaki Castle, Kita Shosai. The centerpiece of the festival are the large “dashi” floats that are said to be carriers for the gods.

Hanamaki Festival(A Parade of Dashi Floats)


These dashi floats used throughout festivals and religious ceremonies in Japan, and are called dashi as that’s the word for pushing and pulling things around. These large carts are decorated in a number of different themes – samurai generals from the warring-states period of Japan’s history, figures from Japanese fairy tales and the like. These life-size dolls are filled with personality, and the colorful dashi are adorned with boulders, flowers, and other decorations.


Making the dashi is split up into different tasks, and some areas start making dashi as early as July. For example, the cherry blossoms and peonies that adorn the floats are made by dyeing and drying washi paper formed into petals. They’re coated with wax so they won’t rip when blown by the wind. This entire process is repeated over and over to make the dashi.


Hanamakians start getting involved with making the dashi in elementary school. People work under the dry, scorching sun to apply the wax coating, tiring from the heat of the wax – it’s very hard work. But these hard workers want to produce successful festivals, so air is energetic, and the workers are happy and fulfilled. These city residents love the festival, and fully use their skills that they’ve honed over many years. They work on the floats after their day jobs and on weekends, and are truly the epitome of professionalism. In a way, the real thrill of the Hanamaki Festival is the process of putting it all together.


On the day of the festival, the final decoration is the people of town coming together to see the floats. Small children beat their taiko drums in time with the flutes, drums, and sounds of the Hanamaki Festival, guiding the dashi forward. They were golden crowns on their heads, and white makeup on their adorable faces, with the light of the dashi shining on their faces. The Hanamaki Festival is the final stage for the performance they’ve been practicing so hard for.

Hanamaki Festival(Children Parading Down the Street)


During the night of the parade, the dashi marching through the commercial district are lit not with electric light bulbs, but with gas lamps. The flames, flickering in the wind, make the dashi look more beautiful and mysterious, stealing the hearts of all the festival-goers. The commercial district will be full of food stalls, where you can eat delicious food, drink beer, and watch the parade. It truly is the best time of the year!


For the past two years, the parade was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it was able to overcome that to be held in September 2022 for the first time in three years.

Hanamaki Festival(First Time in Three Years)


It was a smaller parade this year, but it still brought joy to the hearts of the people of Hanamaki, who have been waiting so long. Festivals are not just things you go to see, they’re things that you can enjoy as participants, making the dashi or carrying the portable shrines. We hope you one day get to participate yourself!


400年以上の歴史と伝統 幻想的な世界が広がる「花巻まつり」