Nagasaki Kunchi Festival

The Nagasaki Kunchi is a festival that has been held annually since 1634. It’s a citywide event that draws participation from 59 neighborhoods of Nagasaki. Each neighborhood has a unique dance that’s performed at the festival once every 7 years. Each year 8 or 9 neighborhoods perform.

Many of the dances have hundreds of years of history behind them. Some display influences from Holland, China and Portugal. Dances incorporate large props known as Katsugimono that are held by dancers and weigh more than a ton. Several of these are boats with European designs. Others include unique items such as 19th century mechanical puppets.

The entire city has a party atmosphere for the three nights of the festival. Each neighborhood has floats that they parade through town. The float teams visit each business in their neighborhood to pay their regards. This has roots in a tradition that was begun in the 17th century to find hidden Christians. Locals were expected to open their homes to the community for the festival. Government spies were sent to look for signs of Christian influences in each home. Christianity was illegal in Japan for much of the Edo-era.

The modern festival is considered of a celebration of Nagasaki’s rich multicultural history.