A Japanese-style harvest festival! Expect prayers, singing and dancing with the help of copious amounts of homemade beer.
Shirakawago Village, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in the heart of Hakusan National Park is one of Japan’s classic places to visit, with its many original zukkuri gassho houses and ancient Japanese atmosphere. Tourism and agriculture are the main industries here and with hundreds of thousands of visitors (mainly day trippers) each year there is little time to sit back and relax.
However, as quiet as this town is most of the year, the residents know how to party. Every year between October 14 and 19, Shirakawago is the best for the Doburoku Festival. In most of Japan, homemade alcohol is prohibited, however, the people of this town have special permission to produce a type of unrefined sake. Unlike the refined sake that you can find in other parts of Japan, doburoku is white, thick, and very sweet.
During the festival, this homemade concoction is offered to the local mountain gods in gratitude for their protection and with prayers for a good harvest. After the offerings, there is much left over! The locals will happily share their Doburoku with you and invite you to join in their celebrations, which include songs, dances, and niwaka (improvised buffoonery). As an added bonus, you might like to find a front row spot for the Shishimai Lion Dancers for the Lion to nibble on your head, a sign of good luck.
Doburoku Matsuri is a great opportunity to enjoy a local Japanese festival that has changed little through the waves of time and make some local friends along the way.
When to go: Doburoku Matsuri takes place between October 14 and 19 each year. The main celebrations are on the 14th and 15th, which are centered on the Shirakawa Hachiman Shrine in the Ogimachi district.