In the middle of a forest and high up in the mountains seems like an unlikely place for a shrine to the protector of those at sea. Yet in the mountains north of Kyoto sits the small town of Kibune, home to a shrine dedicated to the god of water and rain. People celebrate matsuri (small, local festivals) here hoping for more/less rain or good fortune at sea.
Kibune (貴船) translates literally to “yellow boat”. Legend has it that the goddess Tamayori-hime travelled up the river all the way from Osaka to the mountains in a yellow boat and the shrine was built where her journey finally came to an end.
We hiked in to the small village of Kibune to see matsuri for ourselves and were greeted by several restaurants and ryokan.
The restaurants in Kibune had built covered platforms over the river for the warm months ahead, taking advantage of the river to cool their guests. Most of the restaurants served set meals (or kaiseki) that showcased local, seasonal flavors. It was an amazing experience, but one we paid a premium for. Many of the other patrons that joined us were obviously well-heeled and well-dressed businessmen. The businessmen ate their meals quickly and shuffled back to the street to join the matsuri and we soon followed suit.
The beating of the drum signaled the beginning of the matsuri procession. During this particular festival the Shinto devotees were carrying the mikoshi (portable shrine) through the town, presumably toward the ocean, while chanting and dancing.