Figuring out the “Figuration” of the Kishiwada Danjiri Festival
The Kishiwada Danjiri Festival is one of the most famous float festivals in Japan, known for its dangerous performances. Running in rhythm to the music of bells, flutes and drums, about a hundred people tow the three- to four-ton floats (named danjiri) as fast as possible. The highlight of the festival is called Yarimawashi, wherein the float turns the corner without slowing down. To achieve the perfect Yarimawashi, the team members are required to have strong ties of solidarity and flawless techniques.
The festival is managed by two organizations, one that tows the float and another that controls the whole festival. The former is called cho-nai, which recruits members from neighboring districts to perform Yarimawashi; the latter is called nen-ban, which selects and associates members from the cho-nai organizations to run the festival. Examining these two organizations, the cho-nai organization is vertically structured, based on seniority, and the nen-ban organization is horizontally structured, based on the members’ careers.
This paper analyzes every aspect of competition between organizations, groups, and individuals. Because the festival is run by two organizations, a unique and original career path is created and produces “festival-elites.” These elites alternate between and experience both organizations to develop a network and skills by competing with others, to obtain “capitals” and become the future leaders of the festival.
In addition, we reveal that the mechanism of this festival has a nested structure in which competition and solidarity coexist. This paper shows the figuration of the festival as a complex and dynamic cultural event.