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Updated: April 1, 2019
The Hinode Matsuri, or Sunrise Festival, is the annual spring festival of Musashi-Mitake-jinja Shrine. The name of this important festival comes from a ceremony held by Buddhist mountain priests upon reaching the peak of the mountain. This ceremony is thought to be the origin of the festival, which used to be held at sunrise on February 8 according to Japan's old lunisolar calendar. Currently, the festival is held on May 8.
The evening events on May 7 include a solemn Shinto procession accompanied by gagaku (traditional Japanese court music) performed at twilight and illuminated by the faint light of lamps. The procession ends when it reaches the location of the sacred palanquin, into which deities are believed to descend. Visitors who stay at a pilgrims' lodging can participate in these spiritual events.
During the festival on May 8, a procession starts from the plaza in front of the cable car station on the mountain's summit and winds through Mitake Village. Focused on a mikoshi (portable shrine), this procession includes Shinto priests, men dressed in white, armored warriors, and children. The mikoshi was created in 2005, a special reproduction of the cultural treasure dedicated by the shogun (military commander) Tokugawa Tsunayoshi. After passing through the village, the procession goes up 300 stone steps to the main shrine at the summit of Mt. Mitake, which has an elevation of 929 meters. The views of Tokyo from the peak are truly spectacular.
The celebrations the evening before the main festival are a rare chance to enjoy the nighttime scenery and views from Mt. Mitake.