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If you are visiting Japan in May, the country will definitely not disappoint in term of cultural exhibitions and traditional festivals. One of the festivals that you should add in your “must-see list” will definitely be “Shunki Reitaisai”, also known as the Grand Festival of Spring.

Spring Festival with the 18th century Warriors

Shunki Reitaisai is a traditional festival held in Nikko every year on the 17th and 18th of May to celebrate Tokugawa Ieyasu. Ieyasu is well known as a warrior and the founder of Tokugawa Shogunate in Edo, or better known as “Tokyo” in today’s world.

Hyakumono-Zoroe Sennin Gyoretsu

During this festival more than ten thousand worriers will take part in this procession. This festival is already on the list of world heritage site. The procession is called Hyakumono-Zoroe Sennin Gyoretsu. In this procession, the men will dress up like the ancient worriers do during the 18th century.

World Heritage Shrine, Nikko Toshogu Shrine

The Nikko Toshogu Shrine, a World Heritage of Unesco, is dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate in Edo (Tokyo). This procession reproduces the scene of his funeral at which the remains were transferred from the remote Shizuoka Prefecture in Nikko, according to his will.

Food Stalls during the festival

The procession departs from a shrine called Otabisho by the Shinkyo Bridge located to the south of Futarasan-jinja Shrine. It is led by three portable shrines which carry the spirits of the three Shoguns, including Tokugawa Ieyasu. They are followed by Shinto priests on horseback and samurai warriors clad in full armor. There are no special attractions, but this enhances the grandiosity and elegance of the procession all the more, impressing the spectators with the dignity of the samurai warriors.

A portable shrine carried by participants

Along with the processing are the ancient palace music and the dance performances. And there are exciting yabusame competitions, in which the participants will shot while they are ridding on the house back.

Folks are playing ancient palace music

Yabusame’s Participants

Yabusame Competitions

Tokugawa Ieyasu

One of the most significant figures in Japanese history, Ieyasu was a warrior, statesman and founder of the Tokugawa dynasty of shoguns. Tokugawa Ieyasu was born Matsudaira Takechiyo in 1542, son of the lord of the province of Mikawa.

In 1567 Ieyasu, whose father’s death had left him as leader of the Matsudaira, allied with Oda Nobunaga, a powerful neighbour. Ieyasu spent the next decade-and-a-half campaigning with Nobunaga while expanding his own influence and wealth.

Ieyasu died on 17 April 1616. He was later deified and his mausoleum at Nikko became one of the most important shrines in Japan.

Ieyasu’s Portrait

Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542-1616) founded the shogunate in Edo (now Tokyo) in 1603 that endured for more than 260 years after skillfully surviving a turbulent era of civil warfare.

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