Over 500 street stalls selling every imaginable kind of festival food, daruma dolls, a plant and shrub market, daruma dolls, haunted houses, daruma dolls, open air karaoke competitions, thousands of people, and more daruma dolls, including the world’s largest.
This is the Mihara Shinmei Ichi (market) Festival, also known as the “Daruma Festival” held every year for three days in early February.
Shinmei is an alternative name for Amaterasu, the sun goddess of Shinto mythology and the festival has been closely connected to the Ise cult centered on Ise Jingu Grand Shrine in Mie prefecture, one of the most important centers of Shinto where Amaterasu is enshrined. The details of the early history of the festival seem unclear, but it is believed to have begun over 400 years ago, during the late Muromachi period, when the Ise cult was spreading across the archipelago.
It is thought that it was towards the end of the Edo period that the buying of lucky daruma dolls – in Mihara, complete with a dotted headband – became popular. Each family would buy a daruma, write the name of all the family members on it and place it on their family shine. Originally they would only be replaced after they became very old, but then began the idea (thought up by clever daruma-sellers perhaps) of each person buying a daruma each year; setting a gaol for the year while painting in one eye and painting in the other once the goal had been reached. While the food stalls way outnumber the daruma stalls, you will see many of them selling the little, round, bearded red guys, as well as ones bigger than your head for a good chunk of change and in colors such as gold, yellow and pink. The symbol of the festival is what is said to be the largest daruma doll in Japan which looks down the main festival street during the event.