"What kind of place is a Shinto shrine?"

There are many theories as to the origins of Japanese shrines and how they evolved overtime, and although there can be differences due to the auspiciousness of a shrine or the deities that are worshipped there, generally speaking, shrines would have looked very different from how we know them today.

Since ancient times in Japan, the people have found the existence of `kami` or spirits within all things in the natural world. Especially phenomena such as megaliths, large trees and mountains were believed to be sacred places where the kami would dwell. At such places, temporary ceremonial sites were created, and as well as offering shelter from the elements, these sites came to be regarded as places where one could always come in contact with the kami, and therefore overtime they became established as shrines.

At the entrance to shrines `torii gates` were created to let people know that they were entering a sacred place, and in the vicinity there would be a stream of running water where one could cleanse oneself, as the people believed that in order to meet the Kami, first they had to purify the body and mind through ritual cleansing. Nowadays, there is a running water facility called a "Temizusha" at the entrance to every shrine, where you first cleanse your hands and mouth, before approaching the main hall.
Please refer to the video for instructions on shrine etiquette.

Takahama Shichinen-Matsuri
(Takahama 7 Years Festival)

Once upon a time in Japan, epidemics and disasters were believed to be the work of vengeful spirits, and in order to appease these spirits the people would make offerings to the gods by conducting `Matsuri` or festivals. With over 450 years of history, Takahama Shichinen-Matsuri is one such festival whose traditions and rituals have been successively handed down from generation to generation until the present day.

Held in accordance with the Japanese zodiac, the festival is only celebrated in the `Year of the snake` and the `Year of the boar`, which means it only occurs once every 6 years. If you count the number of years between each festival including the year in which it was last held, then every 7 th Year becomes a festival year, which is where this festival gets its name.

For 7 days and nights, the town comes alive as huge portable shrines (Mikoshi) and festival floats (Hikiyama) are carried through the streets, with an array of traditional Japanese music, dance and theatre performed throughout the town.

Designated as an intangible cultural heritage of Fukui Prefecture, this festival is well worth seeing!

Guide Map