The Takayama Festival is the collective name for the Sanno Matsuri of spring and the Hachiman Matsuri held at Sakurayama Hachimangu shrine in October, and is considered one the most beautiful festivals of Japan.
A large parade of 1,000 people is staged, making you feel as if you have slipped back to the 15th century, especially because of the costumes and music performances.
Most popular are the Tokeiraku parade of people wearing hats adorned with bird feathers who sound bells and beat drums, and the shishimai lion dance which is performed by dancers wearing head gear designed like a lion's head.
These are followed by a parade of over 10 gorgeous floats called yatai. These yatai floats have all kinds of contrivances, such as marionettes which move so dexterously, taking the spectators by surprise.
Once evening falls, 100 paper lanterns adorn these floats, producing an even more beautiful sight.
The wonderful technologies of western and eastern Japan that existed in the Edo period (1603-1867) are fully utilized in this festival. This is the pride of Takayama, which formerly boasted outstanding artisans such as carpenters and sculptors.
(Information from the Japan National Tourism Organisation website: http://www.jnto.go.jp/)
Place: Hie-Jinja shrine in Takayama, Gifu Prefecture
Dates: Apr. 14 and 15
From Tokyo: 25 minutes' walk from Takayama Station. Takayama Station is on the JR Takayama Honsen Line. Change at Nagoya Station, which is on the Tokaido Shinkansen Line from JR Tokyo Station.