Samurai Parade: Matsue Musha Gyoretsu

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The cherry blossoms surrounding Matsue castle are an image that appears in most tourism pamphlets of the area. The delicate flowers are a curious juxtaposition in front of the impressive black structure. I thought I was right on time to see the blossoms at full bloom and that I would be able to take some photos worthy of a front page… but instead, I found myself in a real hanafubuki, cherry blossom storm, and the rain and wind picked up all the remaining blossoms from the trees and dropped them right on top of me.

The rain soon turned to hail and I hid in a roofed boat circling the moat. Coincidentally, but very welcome, the boat had a kotatsu, a table with a blanket and heater, so I tucked myself in and listened to the boatwoman sing some local folk songs. The ticket lasts the entire day and, not wanting to face the weather again, I stayed put for a second loop.

Luckily, my visit to Matsue hadn’t been in vain, the rain stopped for a while and the festival was able to take place as planned for a couple hours. The festival was the Matsue Myusha Gyoretsu and the main event was a parade of samurais leading down the main roads of the city until the castle. It is a representation of the moment Lord Horie Yoshiharu arrived to Matsue, the new city he would rule over, together with his men and clan.

At the halfway point, on the biggest of Matsue’s bridges, the parade stops so that many gunmen can do a shooting demonstration.

After the shots, the procession continues. A yamabushi, pilgrim of the Shugendo religion (above), warns us of their departure.

What I like the most about festivals in small cities and towns is that they are much more informal than the big celebrations in Tokyo or Kyoto. Children usually participate, you can talk to the volunteers of the festival without any problems and often you can even dress up and participate yourself. If you sign up a few days before, you can also join the parade in Matsue.

Before leaving, I stopped for some warm dango at one of my favourite cafés and I found a corner of sakura that the rain hadn’t managed to wipe out completely.

In the end, a day that started grey but ended well!


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