Project area:Yamadacho (Iwate Prefecture)

Yamada Hachiman Shrine, Oosugi Shrine
Interview: Chief Priest Akinari SATO/Yamada Hachiman Shrine, Oosugi Shrine
In Yamada there lies Yamada Hachiman Shrine, positioned on elevated ground commanding a view of the Yamada coast, and Oosugi Shrine, formerly based 150m from the sea. The “Yamada Festival” which is held between these two shrines, is the biggest festival in the town. Since childhood the people of Yamada have heard the music of this festival and seen the procession of the mikoshi, so much so that the love for festivals runs in their blood. At any rate, the passion for this event is certain as so many people return to their hometown not for the Obon season, but instead, in September at the time of this festival. However, through the impact of the earthquake and tsunami Oosugi shrine has been destroyed and furthermore the mikoshi and performing arts props have all been taken by the tsunami. Nevertheless, Sato is determined to restore the festival in order to continue the performing arts traditions passed down through generations and to call those who have fled back to Yamada.


Committed to Recovery in 10 Years
Festival Revival as a Testament to Regeneration

"Yamada Matsuri Festival"- The one thing which residents can look forward to

Yamada Hachiman Shrine is positioned on raised ground in the town commanding a view of the Yamada coast, and Oosugi Shrine was based 150m from the sea. The "Yamada Matsuri Festival" which is held between these two shrines, is the biggest festival in the town. On the first day of the festival the mikoshi is taken from Yamada Hachiman Shrine and paraded to Oosugi Shrine, after which the streets are filled with a procession of the unique performing arts of Tohoku including the ritual "Yamada Toramai" (Tiger dance) and Hachiman Shikamai (deer dance). The next day the mikoshi of Oosugi Shrine is taken across the sea and fishing boats fly large flags in prayer of a good catch. Those who have moved away from their hometown do not usually return for Obon,but do so for the "Yamada Matsuri Festival" each September. For those born and bred in Yamada this is a very special festival.

"From our childhood the love for festivals runs in our blood.Even when we become adults, we still act like children 1 month before the festival becoming so excited with anticipation. And once Obon has passed, the sounds of rehearsals only heighten this excitement."

Then came 3.11.Due to the tsunami and fires approximately 80% of Yamada was destroyed.Oosugi Shrine was also washed away by the tsunami, along with its mikoshi,leaving only one Tori (gate) standing.

"After the earthquake occurred I went to check on Yamada Hachiman Shrine and Oosugi shrine. I checked that the gates had not fallen then made my way to Sekiguchi Shrine in the heart of the town, and it was then that the tsunami came.Due to the impact of the tsunami fires broke out in two areas of the town.The scatter of debris stopped the water supply from reaching the areas, preventing us from extinguishing the fire,and allowing it to continue burning for two days.There was a pool of fire right up to the base of the raised land where Yamada Hachiman Shrine stands, but there was nothing that could be done.After two days the self defense force arrived and fought the fire from the air. It was only then that the fire was extinguished."

It was not only the shrine and the mikoshi which were destroyed.Many people,who had probably been looking forward to the "Yamada Matsuri Festival", also lost their lives.However, Sato claims there is something else that is at risk of being lost.

"People are obviously facing a lot of stress in the evacuation centres and temporary housing,so the other day the Sekiguchi Fudouson Festival was held in the area of Sekiguchi. It was such enjoyment for the children. Seeing their happy faces, the parents and grandparents are also able to smile. Seeing this I thought even without a mikoshi,there is still a way to continue the "Yamada Matsuri Festival" again.Furthermore if we cancel for 1 year,then it is possible that performing arts groups will disband. And if these performing arts,which should be passed on to our children, stop, then it is also possible that the festival will disappear. Provinces which do not hold festivals may have come to such a situation through the loss of the performing arts."

Please don't forget your home town. Please come back to Yamada.

This Autumn,with a different form to previous years, a new kind of "Yamada Festival" is being planned at Yamada Hachiman Shrine. The objective of such a move is to prevent the loss of the performing arts, to allow residents to have fun and to contribute to the furthering of the town's regeneration.

"I don't know when we can return the festival to its true state. It would be good to achieve in 5-6 years but it will take at most 10 years I think.As so many people have lost their lives in this town,it would be insensitive to parade the mikoshi through the streets. It will be difficult at least until the town has made a reasonable recovery. However I wish to reinstate the festival as soon as possible, and see those who have evacuated outside of the prefecture or further inland return to this town."

Once the shape of the neighbourhood has been reformed,the Oosugi shrine rebuilt, the mikoshi repaired and the tools of the performing arts gathered, then again when Obon has passed and we hear the sounds of rehearsing....This will be a testament to the regeneration of the town. It is of course the people of Yamada who will continue the "Yamada Matsuri Festival". Sato offers his message to the 2000-3000 people who have evacuated from the town.

"To all those who have taken refuge outside of Yamada.Please do not forget Yamada, and when we have restored the festival to its original state please return. When worries of earthquakes in the area deplete and we are once again able to rebuild the town, please return to Yamada and build your home here.Please do not forget your hometown. This is my hear tfelt plea."

The Mikoshi of Oosugi Shrine, held for self keeping at Yamada Hachiman shrine after being damaged by the tsunami.

(The interview was conduced on July 11, 2011 in Yamadacho, Shimoheigun, Iwate)





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Chief Priest Akinari SATO
Yamada Hachiman Shrine, Oosugi Shrine


For all enquiries in English please contact to WA WA PROJECT who will be able to facilitate communication with the various groups and individuals introduced here.



Restoration of festival and recovery of one’s heart - the local ritual(Matsuri) represents the local community. To restore a portable shrine that is the symbol of Matsuri leads to a path for the neighborhood restoration. Everyone, please visit the city.


I had a chance to speak to Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, who is a well-respected clinician and researcher of post-traumatic stress and related phenomena in the US. He said “ What you need isn’t to talk to a psychiatrist. Move your body. Hit the drum and feel its beat. Dance to the traditional and local music. Build your own house. These things are the best care for your mind health.” Restoration of festival is the necessity to recover one’s mind.

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