Tradition of parading of portable shrines continues at Sapporo Festival

Locals take photographs of the procession of shrines during the Sapporo Festival, taking place for the first time in three years. 2:15 p.m. on June 16, Minami 1, Nishi 4, Chuo-ku, Sapporo

On June 16, the final day of the Hokkaido Shrine Festival (Sapporo Festival) – which heralds the arrival of early summer in Hokkaido – portable shrines were paraded through the city center for the first time in three years. Despite the rain, approximately 350 people, including shrine parishioners dressed in traditional costumes, paraded through the streets to the accompaniment of festival music.
The procession began in 1878, but was canceled twice during the war and again in 2020 and 2021 after the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus. This was the 141st time the event has been held.
After departing from Hokkaido Shrine at 9:00 a.m., four ‘mikoshi’ (portable shrines) and eight floats slowly made their way along the 14.3 km route. This year, as part of infection prevention measures, there was one less float, and the number of people involved in the procession was less than half that of previous years. A ritual that usually takes place at the Nishi 4-chome intersection in Chuo-ku was also cancelled. Members of the public lined the streets to catch a glimpse of the procession for the first time in three years, and waved to those taking part.
A man (85) from Chuo-ku, Sapporo, said, “I have been watching the procession or more than 50 years. It’s too bad it rained, but it feels like summer has started in Sapporo.”
It was also the final day of the stalls in Nakajima Park, which were so crowded on June 14 – the first day of the festival – that City officials made unprecedented calls for the voluntary restraint of visitors. Shimizu Hideki, chairman of the Hokkaido Street Merchants Association, which organizes the event, said, “We should have considered restricting admission. We would like to reflect on this in the future.”