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Suzume Odori

A History of Sendai Aoba Matsuri

During the Edo period, a festival for Tosho-gu Shrine was held on September 17. This has come to be known as the "Sendai Matsuri."

Tosho-gu Shrine was built on April 17, 1654 in the days of the second Sendai clan leader, Date Tadamune, Sendai Matsuri started on that day the following next year. Because of Sankinkoutai ( a kind of the feudal system of Clan leaders' alternate-year attendance at Edo), it was held every other year, when the leader was staying in Sendai.

There were about seventy floats called Yamaboko in the festival, and the procession of Yamaboko lifted by from seventy two to sixteen people paraded the street to the music named Kiyori Ondo.

During the Meiji era, in 1874, Aoba Shrine was built in the precinct at Tosho-ji Temple in Kitayama to commemorate Date Masamune, an ancestor of the clan leaders. On May 24, the next year, the anniversary of his death, the festival began. People had gradually come to call the festival "Aoba Matsuri" not Sendai Matsuri, and it became a civic holiday when banks, government offices and schools were closed to celebrated it In 1885, the 250th ceremony of Masamune's death was held in a large scale with many floats,

Yamaboko and Dashi from each area. A hundred men and women in Kokubun-cho street danced Suzume Odori (a dance with gestures of sparrows) wearing uniform hats and hanten coat, pulling a large ceremonial flag of Aoba Shrine. Using the flag, they reproduced Suzume Odori which was created when stones for the wall of Aoba-jo Castle were drawn.
Although Aoba Matsuri was called off more than twenty years ago, it has been revived with some renewals in 1985, when it was the 350th ceremony of Masamune's death.
Now it has become a typical Spring sight in Sendai.