I didn’t know until I became an adult that Rokugatsudo (六月灯), the festival I’ve enjoyed since I was a child is actually held only in Kagoshima (former Satsuma Domain).
I believed that the word “Rokugatsudo” was a standard Japanese, so I was very surprised to find out there is no such word in dictionaries!
The History of Rokugatsudo
In this season, Rokugatsudo is held at shrines all over Kagoshima. It is called “Rogaddo” in Kagoshima.
Why did such festivals start only in Kagoshima?
When Mitsuhisa Shimazu (島津光久), the second lord of the Satsuma Domain reconstructed a Kannon-do Hall of a temple at Shishoin, he put many lanterns along the street to make the street light up, and patrons of the temple followed him and they offered lanterns to the temple. It is said that this is the start of the festival.
People started to hold Rokugatsudo following the example of the lord of Satsuma….that’s why the festival is only in Kagoshima!
It is also said that since the long time ago, there was a custom offering lights to village shrine and the god of horses, and also to pray to drive plague off and prevent damage to crops in June. Some people say that this custom changed to the festival.
Hand-made Lanterns Are Decorated
In this season, beautiful lanterns which patrons of shrines and children painted are dedicated. The pictures on lanterns are projected by the gentle lights of lanterns on the festival night.
Looking at many lanterns lining up along the approach to the shrine is part of the attraction of Rokugatsudo.
The Biggest Rokugatsudo
The picture above is Terukuni shrine (照国神社) where one of the biggest Rokugatsudo is held.
This shrine is dedicated to Nariakira Shimazu (島津斉彬), the 11th lord of Satsuma Domain.
What Do People do?
At shrines where Rokugatsudo are held, children’s’ song and dance, and performing arts are dedicated on specially arranged stages. Many stalls sell various things. Rokugatsudo is one of the most familiar events for each region of Kagoshima.
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