Boat-shaped danjiri in a town deep in the mountains

The Yaotsu Danjiri Festival boasts a history of over 300 years. Three huge floats that combine to form a single boat are paraded through the town from in front of the Yaotsu Town Hall to Ofune Shrine, the local deity of Yaotsu, with the loud chants of their pullers. It seems strange to see a boat-shaped danjiri in a town deep in the mountains, but Yaotsu Town, which is isolated from the current transportation network, has two rivers, Nishikori Minato and Kurose Minato, along the Kiso River, which flows east and west through the town. It has a history of being a town with two ports and prospering for shipping on the Kiso River from the late Middle Ages. The Yaotsu Danjiri Festival is said to have started during the Genroku era to pray for the safety of rafters as a symbol of the prosperity of boat transport on the Kiso River.

A town that developed around water transportation using the Kiso River and land transportation using roads such as Kurose Kaido.

At that time, Yaotsu was not only a key point for assembling timber harvested from the upper reaches of the Kiso River into rafts, but also a place where various products were traded. “Nishikori Minato” is a river port that developed as a Kiso lumber netting and rafting place from the Edo period, and the Owari domain’s Nishikiori lumber magistrate was located there. It developed into a regular market, and was lined with wholesalers and merchant houses.

A town that developed around water transportation using the Kiso River and land transportation using roads such as Kurose Kaido.

Yaotsu has a history of arranging wood felled in the upper reaches of the Kiso River into rafts at Nishikori Minato (Nishikori Tsunaba) and transporting it further downstream.The joints of the danjiri at the Yaotsu Danjiri Festival may have been modeled after that. It is also tightened with wisteria vine. “Yama-tsage”, which involves re-tightening the wisteria vines with new wisteria vines every year and adjusting the tightness, is an important task before the festival. The wheels of the floats are outer wheels, and iron plates are nailed into them perpendicularly to the wheels like gears, so when the floats move, vibrations are constantly transmitted throughout the floats. When turning a corner, you have to forcibly change direction while moving forward, but 16 young people (group of 16 people) skillfully used levers to lever two long trees called oshiki that grew at the front and back of the danjiri and each wheel. The boat makes a bold turn around the crossroads, accompanied by the shouts of the pullers.

In order for the float to endure, we thought that the best structure for the Danjiri would be to tighten it with wisteria vines. Wisteria is a deciduous vine belonging to the Fabaceae family, so it often wraps around standing trees. Additionally, wisteria grows thick and does not tear. Wisteria that is wrapped around the tree presses the tree and makes it distorted. In addition, wisteria vines pose a danger to forestry workers. If there are no trees around, it will just wrap around one tree, but in a forest, the branches of the surrounding trees touch each other, so it will wrap around other trees. Therefore, even if you try to cut down the tree, the wisteria wrapped around the tree next to it will either hold it in place or cause it to swing, preventing it from falling in the desired direction. On the contrary, there is a possibility that it will become a hanging tree or fall in your direction. For this reason, when creating artificial forests of cedar and cypress in the forestry industry, cedar and cypress are the first trees to be removed.

In the past, wisteria vines were used not only for building rafts, but also in daily life. When the whole village went out into the forest to cut underbrush, they always cut down wisteria vines if they found them, but recently it seems that even in cedar forests, wisteria flowers that have been left to grow are blooming. On this tour, we will introduce “wisteria vines” which are a cause of destruction to the mountains in the current forestry industry. While learning about the characteristics of wisteria as a plant, we will think about how to interact with wisteria vines in a sustainable manner that mimics the way people used to live in the past.

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