Originally, Rapposho was a children’s event that was part of Obon in the village of Tokuonji Temple at the foot of Mt. Yamabukiyama. A samurai dressed up as Yoshinaka Kiso parades around the town while riding a Kisouma (Kiso horse).
Rapposho Festival (Yoshinaka Kiso Army-raising Festival) is held annually during Obon to commemorate Yoshinaka Kiso.
Rapposho Festival is an event for commemorating Yoshinaka Kiso and Tomoe-gozen. Participants use torches to draw the character “木” (meaning wood, part of Yoshinaka’s family name) in fire on the side of Mt. Yamabukiyama. Then, they climb down the mountain with the torches in their hands. Finally, they go to Tokuonji Temple with the samurai parade to a pray. The drawing of the fire character is done every year during the Yoshinaka Kiso Army-raising Festival, and it denotes summer. You can enjoy Tomoe-daiko (Japanese drums), fireworks, and various stalls. Come and join the festival.
We interviewed Mr. Yukio Matsubara. He is the president of the Rapposho Preservation Society. He has been participating in Rapposho Festival since childhood and been working to preserve the traditional event.
“Can you tell us about Rapposho Festival?”
“Rapposho has been held annually on August 14 in the Hiyoshi area for a long time. Children had inherited the original form of Rapposho as a traditional event.
Now we have fewer children, so the junior chamber and adults in the town run the festival. There used to be 50 to 60 children in our area.”
“At 7 in the evening, participants climb down Mt. Yamabukiyama with torches in their hands. Then, they do a lantern-light parade from the Tokuonji area to Tokuonji Temple, where the grave of Yoshinaka Kiso stands.”
“We started to draw the fire character ‘木’ on Mt. Yamabukiyama in 1982, when the Yoshinaka 800th Anniversary Festival was held to mark the 800th anniversary of Yoshinaka’s death. Since then, burning torches has been a big job. *laughs*
These days, the festival is cheerfully joined by a samurai parade including a couple dressed up as Yoshinaka Kiso and Tomoe-gozen.”
“What is the origin of the word Rapposho?”
“It’s just been passed down by word of mouth, and nobody knows the origin now. A book of research mentions some word origins. Rapposho is said to stand for blazing fire or the shouts of participants.”
“In 1914, area native Eisuke Matsubara wrote a song titled ‘A song of Rapposho.’ The song is sung at the festival. I sang it, too, when I was a child. I think that, even now, children gather to practice singing the song before the festival.”
“What is remarkable about Rapposho Festival?”
“It’s wonderful that this kind of heritage is, if only sparsely, passed on. Though the population is aging and the number of children is declining considerably, the residents support the area earnestly. That has led to the Japan Heritage designation, I think.”
“Many parents who leave their hometown wish to visit home before Rapposho and have their children take part in the event. I’m sure they keep their heritage in mind and cherish their hometown. We need to continue this kind of event.”
“Please tell us about unfamiliar things or great spots, if there are any.”
“We dragged the statue of Yoshinaka and paraded it around several decades ago. Now it is enshrined in Tokuonji Temple.”
“You can climb Mt. Yamabukiyama even when Rapposho is not taking place. An information board is placed at the trailhead, and a pavilion is at the peak. You can climb it in 15 minutes.
At the peak, you will have quite a view of the post town lying along the Kisogawa River.”
“I hope to continue handing down our heritage in a fixed manner instead of introducing new things. I think that’s the most important thing.
We have less young people, and it’s a big job to carry firewood up the mountain for the fire character. I hope the next generation will take over.
Rapposho Festival is held at Yoshinaka Furusato Park.
You can go for a walk and visit the historic sites of Yoshinaka, such as Tokuonji Temple (very close) and Tomoegafuchi (10-minute walk).
60 minutes by bus and walk
From the Ina Interchange on National road 361, 80 minutes by car
290 Hiyoshi, Kiso Town, Kiso-gun, Nagano Prefecture
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