The Kutami District is located in the northern part of the town about 20 minutes by car from downtown Yaotsu. This festival was first held in 1590 in this area which was once a large village and the festival has continued for over 400 years.
The Kutami District stands at an altitude approximately 500 m above the center of Yaotsu, so spring comes a bit later than it does in downtown. The Kutami Festival brings in the Spring season for the Kutami district. It is held in the week after the Yaotsu Festival, on the third Sunday of April at the Shinmei Shrine and Shirahige Shrine, which house the guardian god.
Altogether there are six floats carried through town. This is because each village in the Kutami District owned a float and they are used today as well. Also, probably because of the narrow mountain roads and the many hills in the area, each of the floats are rather small with only two wheels.
On the day of the festival, the six floats are lined up in front of the shrine where the Karakuri puppet performance takes place (once in front of each shrine for a total of two times). This original ‘Karakuri String Puppet’ show is performed on a stage on top of the float. Because of the unique technique and maneuvering, it has been selected as a National intangible folk cultural asset and a Gifu Prefecture designated intangible cultural asset.
The Karakuri Split-String Puppets are special because the dolls moving on the stage and the strings used to manipulate them aren’t actually connected. This is why it’s called the ‘Split-String’ puppets. It’s a contest of wits to see who can move the puppets the best with only four strings.
Until the day of the contest, the theme of Karakuri is strictly confidential only to those involved. Nobody except for the creator knows. The creators can’t tell and no one is allowed to ask, such strict rules that are followed to this day. The theme changes every year, so you can look forward to a theme depicting current trends and much-hyped topics. Even after working hard to make it and practicing the moves, the efforts end after that single show. It is broken after the unveiling and another has to be made the next year.
The Kutami Festival rules are followed when celebrating the traditional Kutami Festival. The people involved in the festival preparations are not allowed to drink alcohol and must carry out their festival duties seriously. This festival, with all of its traditional rituals, is often compared to a big scroll painting of the dynastic era.
After the festival is over, the bright green colors of spring finally arrive in the Kutami District.