The Hitachi Furyumono is a parade held during the cherry blossom festival each April in Hitachi City on the Pacific coast in the middle of Japan, and once every seven years in May during the Great Festival at the local Kamine Shrine. Each of four local communities – Kita-machi, Higashi-machi, Nishi-machi and Hom-machi – creates a parade float that serves at once as a space to worship a deity and as a multi-level puppet theatre. Three to five masters manipulate the ropes controlling a single puppet as musicians provide accompaniment to the elaborate show. A community event administered by the general agreement of the local residents, the Hitachi Furyumono involves everyone who wishes to participate. The art of the puppeteer, however, is passed within families strictly from father to eldest son as a secret process, which has preserved an ancient repertoire of techniques and stories supposedly originating with a travelling entertainer around the eighteenth century. For the annual cherry blossom festival, one community presents its float each year, but for the Great Festival at Kamine Shrine, the four communities compete to see whose puppeteers are the most skilled and which can provide the best hospitality to the local deity.
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