IWAKUNI, Japan --
During the age of Feudal Japan, each Daimyo (Japanese feudal lord) was required by the Tokugawa Shogunate to report at least every other year in the capital city of Edo, now Tokyo.
This display of loyalty is called the Sankin-kotai, the Daimyo's annual march to Edo.
During the Edo period, Sankinkotai was more than just a form of military service each Daimyo owed to the Shogun. It also helped to quell any hostile intentions the Daimyo may have toward the Shogun.
The expenses the Lord had to pay so his soldiers may accompany him were vast. This made it easier for the Shogun to control his Daimyo because they could not afford to raise an army in revolt.
This practice became law in 1635. Today, there are no more Daimyo, but local Japanese honor this ancient tradition in a festival held every year on April 29 to commemorate the Daimyo and his entourages’ march to Edo.
Occupants of Iwakuni and station residents dressed in Edo period Samurai attire and put on displays of skill and knowledge during the festival.
A Matchlock firearms display commemorated Iwakuni’s gun infantry of the time, said to have been formed by Hiroie Kikkawa, first Iwakuni castle lord, who applied skill mauals established by Ishida Mitsunari, who was a key figure in the battle of Sekigahara in 1600.
Local school bands performed music for patrons.
Throughout the park, Martial arts exhibitions and traditional Japanese tea ceremonies kept the crowds enthralled.
As attendees ventured through Kintai park, they found several Japanese antique displays with traditional swords, fans, cloth and much more.
“This is my first time to Japan,” said Hannah Koscheski, festival attendee. “This festival is something anyone passing through or staying in Iwakuni should see. I am glad I went and had the chance to experience Japanese culture, both modern and ancient.”
Toward the end of the day, the final gala paraded across the ancient Kintai Bridge and through Kintai park, which featured a vast number of participants who simulated the actual march to Edo.
Many traveled from across Japan to witness this centuries-old event.
With more than 40,000 attendants each year, the Sankinkotai festival is one of the largest annual tourist attractions in Iwakuni.