Take your slice of horse racing and archery, shrine jostling, and giant drum performances. The Kurayami Festival is also known as the Darkness Festival because the most important parades take place under the cover of…well… darkness.
The most important procession happens on May 5.
In ancient times, the mikoshi (portable shrines) would be paraded at night when the city’s lights were off. This was so they couldn’t directly connect with the gods — a taboo at the time. Nowadays, paper lanterns guide the way and most lights stay on.
There are also many horses and horse-related ceremonies at this festival. A thousand years ago this area was known for rearing well-bred horses, and the town would race them before presenting the best in front of the court. A mock race takes place on the first day of the festival to honor that ancient tradition.
There will be floats, horse racing, taiko drumming, mikoshi (portable shrine) processions, and lights. It takes place mainly in and around the Okunitama Shrine over a period of 7 days. The first day (April 30) involves a trip to Shinagawa to collect seawater.
The most important festivities are:
- 18:00–20:00: 10 floats with musical accompaniment.
- 20:00: Horse-racing ceremony.
- 12:30: The Manto Festival.
- 13:00: Mikoshi will begin a procession.
- 17:00–18:00: A performance using large taiko drums in front of the shrine.
- 18:00–21:00: 22 floats lit with lanterns will start a procession around the shrine.
- 10:00: The most important annual festival will begin.
- 14:30: Large taiko drums from the surrounding areas will converge at Ōkunitama Shrine.
- 18:00: The main part of the Kurayami Festival, Mikoshi Togyo, will start. Portable shrines will be jostled, fireworks will go off, and drums will be beaten ferociously.
- 22:30: Yabusame (horseback archery) ceremony takes place.
- 04:00–08:00: The mikoshi are returned to the shrine in a procession.