The Exotic Nagasaki Kunchi Festival 2017: Event Schedule And Highlights

The Exotic Nagasaki Kunchi Festival 2017: Event Schedule And Highlights

Nagasaki Kunchi is an autumn festival held at Suwa Shrine, in Kyushu's Nagasaki prefecture. It takes place around October 7th-9th every year and has been designated as a National Important Intangible Folk Cultural Asset.

What is Nagasaki Kunchi?

長崎くんち

長崎くんち
Photo courtesy of Nagasaki Tourism Association

Nagasaki Kunchi is an autumn festival held at Suwa Shrine in Nagasaki, which is located in the Kyushu region. It takes places annually from October 7th through the 9th and it has been designated as a National Important Intangible Folk Cultural Asset. 'Kunchi' is a word from the Kyushu dialect meaning autumn festival. The 'top three Japanese Kunchi' are Nagasaki Kunchi, Hakata O-Kunchi in Fukuoka, and Karatsu Kunchi in Saga.

The Nagasaki Kunchi started around 400 years ago. It originated in an event when two performers dedicated a yokyoku (*1) performance called 'Komee' to the deity of Suwa Shrine. Since Nagasaki was a center of international trade in Japan at that time, the festival became more and more elaborate and inspired by countries with which Japan had diplomatic relations such as China, the Netherlands, and Portugal.

The highlights of the festival are lively performances called dashimono (*2). They start with giant decorated umbrellas, followed by Japanese dance and floats imitating takara-bune (*3), Dutch ships, and Chinese ships. Moreover, the dancing dragon called Jaodori and the dancing shishi lion (*4) called shishi odori are a must-watch.

Towns in Nagasaki take turns having their own dashimono in a seven-year cycle, which means you won't be able to watch the same dashimono again until seven years later. This is one of the great points of this exciting festival: it changes every year.

*1 Yokyoku: poetical texts sang in Noh, a traditional Japanese play.
*2 Dashimono: the word for dances or floats performing in Nagasaki Kunchi.
*3 Takara-bune: a Japanese symbolic 'happy ship' with seven Japanese deities and lots of treasures on board.
*4 Shishi: a legendary animal originating from lions, said to come from China and India.

Nagasaki Kunchi 2017 Schedule

長崎くんち

長崎くんち
Photo courtesy of: Nagasaki Tourism Association

The festival is held on 7th, 8th, and 9th October every year. The schedule of Nagasaki Kunchi 2017 is as follows.

Date: From 7th to 9th October, 2017

Events on 7th October

The performance dedicated to the deity starts at 7:00 at Suwa Shrine, and then moves from the stage to Otabijo, a place where the god stays temporarily after leaving Suwa Shrine. After the performance in the morning, they also perform in front of companies in the city, government offices, and local houses.

At 16:00, the dedicated dance performance called 'Kunchi no Yube' starts. The participants come back to Kokaidomae-hiroba for more performances.

Events on 8th October

After the dedicated performance at Yasaka Shrine from 7:00 in the morning, the performances are held once more at Kokaidomae-hiroba and are followed by others in front of companies and local houses.

Events on 9th October

The performance starts at 7:00 in the morning at Otabijo and is followed by more performances at Suwa Shrine.

The Venues for Nagasaki Kunchi

長崎くんち

長崎くんち
Photo courtesy of: Nagasaki Tourism Association

There are four venues for Nagasaki Kunchi: Suwa Shrine, Otabijo, Yasaka Shrine, and Nagasaki Kokaidomae Plaza. Each has audience seats. If you want to watch performances sitting in these seats, you need to make a seat reservation by June or August. Online booking through the service called ticket pia (Japanese) is available only for Nagasaki Kokaidomae Plaza performances, but on-site reservation is needed for others.

Even if you miss the performances in the venues, you can still watch the performers called Matsuriko around the city after the venue performances. The kind of performances outside of the venue are called Niwasakimawari.

Trams are very convenient in Nagasaki. The fare is a flat rate of 120 yen for adults and 60 yen for children, and they can take you around Nagasaki city very easily. This is a very convenient way to go to the venues.

If you plan to head to Nagasaki from Tokyo, please take a look at: Ways To Travel To Nagasaki, The Doorway To Kyushu.

Access to the Four Venues

Suwa Shrine

Performances are held here on the 7th and 9th and it is the most popular viewing spot, especially if you can get a seat near the Odoriba, which has the best view of all.
Location: Nagasaki, Kaminishiyama 18-15 Suwa Shrine
Access: Tram (toward Hotarujaya) from Nagasaki Station to Suwajinjamae stop

Otabijo

This is a stage set up in the center of Nagsaki by Nagasaki Port. It has great access by bus and train and there will be lines of street stalls here during the festival.

Location: Nagasaki, Motohuna 10-4 Next to Yumesaito
Access: Take the tram toward Akasako or Shokakuji and get off at Ohato stop

Yasaka Shrine

The stage at Yasaka Shrine is close to the viewing seats, which means you can watch breathtaking performances just in front of you.

Location: Nagasaki, Kajiya 8-53
Access: Take the tram toward Shokakuji-shita and get off at Shokakuji-shita

Nagasaki Kokaidomae Plaza

This is a wide stage, so you can relax and enjoy the performances here.

Location: Nagasaki, Uonomachi 4-30
Access: Take tram toward Hotarujaya and get off at Kokaidomae

How to Enjoy the Festival

長崎くんち

長崎くんち
Photo courtesy of Nagasaki Tourism Association
As a feature of Nagasaki Kunchi, the performances are given several times in different locations in a day. It is okay to watch them at one venue, but it's even more fun to travel about and see the performances in their different venues; this makes for some great memories of the festival.

Attire and What to Bring

Attire

The average temperature in October in Nagasaki is 19.7℃. It is after the hottest summer months of August and September, but it still gets hot sometimes. Light shirts, T-shirts, and shorts are your best option. For early mornings or evenings when it becomes cooler, light shawls and hoodies are a good idea to have.

What to Bring: Sunglasses, a Hat, Sunscreen, and a Towel

You might want to be prepared for the sun in autumn Nagasaki. Sunglasses and sunscreen are a must for proper UV care. Parasols are prohibited at each venue, so a hat is recommended instead.

You might also find yourself sweating as you watch the performances, so please bring a towel or handkerchief along with you too. Don't forget to stay hydrated either!

View Information

** All information provided in this article is accurate as of March 2017 and is subject to change.

Read also:

Nagasaki Guide: Places To Visit, Festivals, Dining and More!
Ways To Travel To Nagasaki, The Doorway To Kyushu
Use the Tram to Tour Nagasaki, the City of Slopes
Nagasaki - See The Lion-Dogs At Chinzei Taisha Suwa Shrine

Author & Translator

ライター/エディター/翻訳家 熊本県の田舎出身。海が好き。日本の良いところ、良いものを世界に届けます。

Translated by Kayoko Windle

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