Each year in summer, at the most humid time of year, when it’s really, really, really hot. When people have been dying because of heatstroke and dehydration. The people of Kuwana City have their annual summer festival, known as the the “Stone-bringing Festival”, or “Ishidori” in Japanese.
I’ve asked around, but haven’t been able to get a clear and certain story of what it’s all about. The best guess an educated friend of mine could make is that usually these festivals are a time when the local people bring offerings of rice to their main local Shinto shrine. Though, one year, there must have been a problem, and so the people couldn’t bring rice; though, they still had to made a ceremonial offering. Instead, each town, with their portable shrines deliver a white stone, to represent the rice that they would have brought if they could spare it. For one reason or another, the idea must have stuck and is continued to be repeat to this day
Incidentally, in convenience stores like 7-11, cooked rice balls are available, and make a convenient small meal on the go; much like our sandwiches. I don’t know if they had rice-balls a couple of hundred years ago, but it’s possible, and may explain why a single white stone can so easily represent rice.
This is an annual event, with the main event held on the first Sunday of August. The festival begins on Friday/Saturday night at the stroke of midnight, when all the towns simultaneously strike their drums and cymbals, and the interesting part of the festival begins. They parade the town portable shrines around Kuwana city until about 10am, they get some rest, and resume in the late afternoon. The festival is considered the loudest in Japan. The best time to go is perhaps Saturday late afternoon / evening. You can be there for a very long time (until Sunday morning, after the last train had departed).
During the bombing of the area in World War two, many of the town shrines were destroyed. Each year, even recently, another portable shrine is added to the annual festival, as a replacement for the one they lost 60 years before. It is expected that there would be more portable shrines added in the coming years, at least until all the towns of Kuwana City have a portable shrine again, and perhaps some new comers, too.
All these images are available now at my portfolio.