Chichibu Yomatsuri is a festival of Chichibu Shrine which has a history of more than 2,000 years. It is one of Japan's three greatest hikiyama (float) festivals, together with the Gion Matsuri of Kyoto (July 1st-31st) and the Takayama Matsuri of Takayama City, Gifu Prefecture (April 14th and 15th, and October 9th and 10th).
The main attraction of this festival takes place on the 3rd (the 2nd features an event held on the eve called Yoiyama). Two kasaboko which are large parasol-like objects decorated on top with weapons such as spears, and artificial flowers together with four yatai floats shaped like small houses are paraded through the city streets. In the afternoon, the floats are transformed into stages by pulling out wings on either side, where Kabuki plays are performed.
The most exciting scene of the festival unfolds on the evening of the 3rd when kasaboko and yatai floats, weighing 10-20 tons each and lit up with countless lanterns, climb up a steep slope with a mikoshi (a portable shrine). The spectators' excitement reaches its peak at the powerful sound of the drums and flutes, and the unique festival shouts of 'Ho-ryai! Ho-ryai!' The fireworks illuminating the clear winter evening skies are another of the attractions of this festival.