Tōshōgū Festival

Ieyasu Tokugawa died in 1616 at the age of 75. His ninth son, Yoshinao Tokugawa, who was the first daimyo of the Owari clan, built the Tōshōgū Shinto shrine inside the grounds of Nagoya Castle in 1619 to honor his deceased father. In 1618 he also held a festival, originally called the Nagoya Festival but later changed to the Tōshōgū Festival.
For the parade procession of 1619, people of the Shichiken neighborhood joined together two large carts and decorated them with a doll used in Noh theater performances called Saigyōzakura. This was very popular with spectators, so the next year they created a vehicle featuring the legendary sword duel between the monk Benkei and Ushiwakamaru on a bridge. The float eventually evolved to feature Karakuri doll versions of the monk and the young warrior, inspiring other neighborhoods to compete and make their own floats featuring Karakuri doll for use in the festival.

七間町西行桜 想像図

By 1707, the following nine Karakuri parade floats were in use: the Hashibenkei-sha (first decorated with a Saigyōzakura Noh doll in 1619, changed to the Hashibenkei-sha the following year - Shichiken-chō), the Rin’nasei-sha (first created as the Bonten-sha (梵天車) in 1691, later replaced by the Rin’nasei-sha in 1732 - Tenma-chō), the Raiden-sha (from 1652, Izumi-chō), the Dōjōji-sha (from 1656, changed to Nifukushinsha in 1732 - Chōjamachi), the Yutorimiko-sha (from 1658, Kuwana-chō), the Ishibiki-sha (first created in 1662, replaced by the Chikubushima float in 1707, then replaced by the Karako-sha in 1756 - Miyamachi), the Kokajidai-sha (from 1707 - Kyōmachi), the Shakkyō-sha (from 1704, Nakaichibamachi), the Shōjō-sha (from 1648 as the Tai-Tsuri-bō, from 1658 as the Shōjō-sha - Honmachi). The above floats are listed in the order in which they appear in the festival parade.
In 1763, a Shinan-sha float was created to represent Yodomachi and added to the parade procession.
The Tōshōgū Festival grew to represent the entire Owari clan. Within 80 years of the festival's creation it was a popular spectacle featuring nine parade floats and guards representing 35 neighborhoods. Its main attraction, the Karakuri parade floats, had a large influence on other festivals held in the area, thus extending the influence of the Owari clan.

Parade floats

A number of different types of beautiful parade floats are used in Japanese festivals to enliven the proceedings, including: yamaboko (山鉾), yamakasa (山笠), dashi (山車), hikiyama (曳山), yatai (屋台), and danjiri (楽車 or 壇尻). For more information, please visit the Aichi Parade Float Festival Research Group homepage.