Photo By: Eliza Punshi
Region
Chubu
Island
Honshu
Largest City
Nagoya
Population
7,043,235

Handa Floats Festival

Watch a rare gathering of magnificent floats in this small town also known as the Gateway to Chita Peninsula.

Handa Dashi Matsuri (Handa Floats Festival), takes place once every five years in Handa, Aichi Prefecture, a historically industrial city renowned for two of Japan’s most essential goods: sake and vinegar. The otherwise small city, with a population of just 117,000, swells up to roughly half a million people who want to witness the rare gathering and parade of all 31 floats from 10 different districts of Handa city. For many, it is the perfect opportunity to compare and contrast the traditional floats dating back to the Edo-period.

Photo by: Eliza Punshi Handa Floats Festival has ornate floats.

The 8 meter-tall wooden floats feature intricate carvings, large curtains with embroidered Japanese motifs, and karakuri, traditional Japanese mechanized puppet dolls. The hefty floats, easily weighing over a ton, need the strength of over 30 men to be pulled and paraded around town.

Photo by: Eliza Punshi Handa Floats Festival is every 5 years.

Also accompanying each float is a party of men, women, and sometimes children, who are the “cheerleaders” for their float. They’re all dressed in traditional happi coats (Japanese festive short robes) matching the colours of the float they’re assigned to. Meanwhile, sitting comfortably inside each float are the musicians who play Japanese flutes and drums.

The festival becomes more lively in the evening when the floats are lit up with hundreds of lanterns. Other impressive sights in the evening include the two boats called chintoro-bune, decorated with 365 paper lanterns floating on the Handa canal, and the handheld fireworks display visible from Genbēbashi bridge.

Photo by: Eliza Punshi People line the streets for the event.

While it might be too long to wait until the next dashi matsuri (floats festival) featuring all 31 floats, each district of Handa City celebrates its individual floats festival annually during spring. The festival of the Kamezaki district is especially popular, and it even made it to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List for Humanity in 2016. For more information, you can check the official website, but it’s only in Japanese.

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Things To Know

When to go

The next events will take place in 2022. (There was one held in October of 2017.)

How To Get There

Address

Japan, 〒475-0887 Aichi-ken, Handa-shi, Miyukimachi, 半田駅

By train

Handa lies about 40 minutes south of Nagoya. From Nagoya Meitetsu station, take the train bound for Kowa and get off at Chitahanda station.  From Nagoya JR station, take the train bound for Taketoyo and get off at Handa station.

By car

About 4 hours and 30 minutes drive from Tokyo to Handa City.

Where To Stay

Candeo Hotels Handa
  • Tenno-cho 1-50-8 Handa-Shi, Aichi 475-0859
  • 7.8/10
  • 0.4 km
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Meitetsu Inn Chita Handa Ekimae
  • 1-120-2 Kouseicho Handa-Shi, Aichi 475-0856
  • 8.1/10
  • 0.4 km
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Center One Hotel Handa
  • Kosei-cho 1-74 Handa-Shi, Aichi 475-0856
  • 7.4/10
  • 0.4 km
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Handa Station Hotel
  • Miyaji 511 Handa-Shi, Aichi 475-0902
  • 7.2/10
  • 1.0 km
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