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Experiencing a festival like the locals

Things to Do | Visit Chiba | Latest update:2023/09/26

 Sam Takuya Hanada

Sam Takuya Hanada

Born and raised in Christchurch New Zealand to a Kiwi mum and Japanese dad, I’ve always felt a strong connection to my Japanese roots which is what led me back to Japan in the summer of 2022. In university, a majority of my Japanese friends were from Chiba so it feels great to be living near them now. Currently, I’m living in Katori city, working as a Coordinator for international relations as well as focusing on city promotion, doing my best to showcase the beauty of Chiba’s countryside through social media. Having a major sweet tooth I enjoy going to local cafes and trying out seasonal goods. I also like various types of music and played cello for 5 years during school. In my spare time I like going on long walks and drives to explore different parts of my city.

I had the opportunity to partake in the Sawara Grand Festival. The festival has a history of over 300 years and is split into a summer and autumn festival. I took part in the summer festival on July 14-16th 2023 and got to experience the festival in full, from dance practice, deciding the course the float will take, float prep and so much more. I realized that there is a lot more that goes on behind the scenes to make festivals what they are, as an eventgoer, it is a sight we rarely get to see.

Despite having a Japanese background, growing up in New Zealand I never had the chance to experience events like the Sawara Grand Festival in my hometown. However, after moving to Japan in August of 2022 and experiencing my first autumn festival in Sawara, I knew I wanted to take part alongside the locals.

After being so warmly welcomed and after getting to know everyone I could feel the pride and love that the people of Sawara have for the festival as they told me about the history and small details that make their float unique to everyone else.

It’s a rare chance to be able to participate in something like this, so I feel lucky to have been allowed to try out various different things. I got the chance to push and pull the float, dance, sing, do No-No-Ji-Mawashi, carry a Mikoshi (portable shrine), and hold the Teko which is a special piece of wood used at the front of the float to steer and keep the float from falling over.

You can see our group rotating the float in the video below. Try and spot me if you can, I appear around the 1:14:55 mark.

For those living in Japan, I highly recommend taking the opportunity to be involved in your city’s festival or even try coming to partake here in Sawara after making connections with the locals. Experiences like these become invaluable memories that can be cherished forever.

For those who missed out on their chance to go to the summer festival, the autumn festival takes place in October, and the Suigo Sawara Float Museum also lets you experience the Sawara Grand Festival year-round.

For more information about the overall Sawara Grand Festival experience, please check out:
Sawara Grand Festival | Visit Chiba

Sightseeing Spots

Suigo Sawara Float Museum

Sawara is a classic trading town northeast of Tokyo. It was a major outpost for soy sauce and other goods shipped by river to the capital of Edo (Tokyo), and it was so prosperous that it came to be known as "Little Edo." One of the most impressive Edo-era festival parades was and still is held here, and people flock to see the impressive floats being carried through the town’s narrow streets. This museum displays many of the ‘dashi’ floats for visitors to get an up-close look at the craftsmanship that goes into both the carrier, and the stunning figures on top. The festival is held in both July and October, but you can enjoy the museum all year round.

3368 Sawara-I, Katori City (within the precincts of Yasaka Shrine)

(About 15 minutes on foot from JR Sawara Station)



  • Handicap toilet
  • Wheelchair rentals
  • Written communication for the hearing impaired
  • Service dogs permitted
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