Introducing the Maebashi Hatsui Festival! Maebashi City, Gunma Prefecture

Location: Maebashi Hachiman Shrine and Honmachi Street

Date: January 9, 2017

Access: 10 minutes on foot from JR Maebashi Station

Approximately 10 minutes by car from Maebashi IC on the Kan-Etsu Expressway via Route 17 towards Maebashi (Maebashi Chamber of Commerce and Industry Website)


The Maebashi Hatsui Festival is famous for the burning of daruma dolls for spiritual purification and is also known as the “Daruma Market.” It is one of the three major festivals in Maebashi, and on the day of the festival, stalls selling lucky charms and other items line the streets, creating a lively atmosphere.


The history of the Hatsui Festival dates back to ancient times when it originated as a market for daily necessities and raw silk held on the 4th and 9th of each month, known as “Rokusai-ichi.” It is a traditional event that has continued for over 400 years since the early 1600s during the era of the then lord of the castle, Sakai Shigetada.


On the day of the festival, it begins with the “Daruma Otakiage,” a ceremonial burning of old daruma dolls. A “daruma” is a figurine modeled after the seated meditation pose of Bodhidharma, the founder of Zen Buddhism, and is cherished as a good luck charm. It is made from red papier-mâché, with blank eyes to which wishes are made. Once the wish is fulfilled, the eyes are painted in. After the burning ceremony, a procession of “Ichigami-sama” (the market deity) departs from Maebashi Hachiman Shrine, and a parade featuring mikoshi (portable shrines), tengu (goblins), and large lion figures marches through the shopping streets.


In addition to the burning ceremony and procession, the festival features a market with numerous stalls, further enhancing the festive atmosphere.

Around 600 stalls selling various lucky charms, including daruma dolls and maneki-neko (beckoning cat figurines), are set up. The market extends throughout the central shopping district, bustling with people. The sounds of customers haggling and the lively shouts of vendors continue late into the night.

You can buy many lucky charms at this festival. When you visit, it is recommended to purchase lucky charms or daruma dolls. When you buy a daruma, make a wish and, if it comes true, paint in the eyes. Then, you might consider having it ceremonially burned at the next year’s Maebashi Hatsui Festival.


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