The Onmikoshi parade group marches on the grounds of Max Bell Centre in Calgary on Saturday, Aug. 13,
The Omikoshi parade group marches on the grounds of Max Bell Centre in Calgary on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022. Omikoshi is a ceremony where a shrine of “festival deities” gets carried around a community or neighbourhood. The Omikoshi requires the members to be voracious and uplifting with their voices, as they constantly chant and lift the palanquin up and down, or left and right. (Alejandro Melgar/The Emery Weal).

The Calgary Japanese Festival, or “Omatsuri,” which is Japanese for traditional festival, was held at Max Bell Arena in the blistering heat on Saturday, with vendors, dancers, and martial arts on display.

Omatsuri was established in 2011 by the Calgary Japanese Community Association (CJCA), which has been around since 1975, originally called the Calgary Japanese Canadian Association.

Several groups helped the CJCA with the stage performances, including Midnight Taiko, Yosokai Soran Calgary, H/W School of Ballet, and much more.

The CJCA say that over 400 volunteers worked “tirelessly throughout the year to host this one day celebration of Japanese heritage, culture and traditions.” While the event saw rain later that day, it didn’t stop the all-day event.

Omikoshi parade with festival deities

There was an Omikoshi parade, which is where an elaborate wooden shrine (palanquin) emblazoned with red and gold, with a phoenix on top, is hoisted up by a group of people.

The group then carries the palanquin on a boisterous pilgrimage to a larger shrine, or paraded through a neighbourhood. In this case, it was paraded around Max Bell Centre.

The shrine is said to hold deities that embody the spirit and meaning of the festival.

Calgary’s Omatsuri saw the bearers chant and rock the shrine in a rhythm and gait, carrying the burden of the shrine with them while lifting the spirits of everyone watching.

The chanting of “Esa, hoisa, esa, hoisa”, which is translated as “left, right,” were sung alongside Midnight Taiko playing Ohayashi, which is traditional music for the parade.

Another tradition the bearers do is they drink copious amounts of sake beforehand.

After the parade, the shrine bearers return the Omikoshi to its temple in the ritual of Kami-okuri, ensuring the spirits are safely home.

A Shinto priest prays for the Omikoshi parade group before they get set to march through Max Bell Centre in Calgary on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022. Omikoshi is a shrine of “festival deities,” and were a part of Calgary’s Japanese Festival. The palanquin that the bearers hold holds a deity of the festival, and the bearers prepare with sake beforehand. (Alejandro Melgar/The Emery Weal).
Jigme Phunkhang, left, watches the Shinto priest's prayer before the Onmikoshi parade group gets set to march through Max Bell Centre in Calgary on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022.
Jigme Phunkhang, left, watches the Shinto priest’s prayer before the Omikoshi parade group gets set to march through Max Bell Centre in Calgary on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022. Omikoshi is a ceremony where a shrine of “festival deities” gets carried around a community or neighbourhood. Phunkhang is part of Midnight Taiko, and they are a Taiko drum band. (Alejandro Melgar/The Emery Weal).
The Onmikoshi parade group marches on the grounds of Max Bell Centre in Calgary on Saturday, Aug. 13,
The Omikoshi parade group marches on the grounds of Max Bell Centre in Calgary on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022. (Alejandro Melgar/The Emery Weal).
The Onmikoshi parade group marches on the grounds of Max Bell Centre in Calgary on Saturday, Aug. 13,
The Omikoshi parade group marches on the grounds of Max Bell Centre for their first lap in Calgary on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022. (Alejandro Melgar/The Emery Weal).
One of the bearers of the palanquin while the Onmikoshi parade group marches on the grounds of Max Bell Centre in Calgary on Saturday, Aug. 13,
One of the bearers of the palanquin while the Omikoshi parade group marches on the grounds of Max Bell Centre in Calgary on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022. The Omikoshi requires the members to be voracious and uplifting with their voices, as they constantly chant and lift the palanquin up and down, or left and right. (Alejandro Melgar/The Emery Weal).
One of the bearers of the palanquin while the Onmikoshi parade group marches on the grounds of Max Bell Centre in Calgary on Saturday, Aug. 13,
One of the bearers of the palanquin while the Omikoshi parade group marches on the grounds of Max Bell Centre in Calgary on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022. Before the ceremony begins, the bearers drink lots of sake to lift their spirits. (Alejandro Melgar/The Emery Weal).
The Onmikoshi parade group marches on the grounds of Max Bell Centre in Calgary on Saturday, Aug. 13,
The Omikoshi parade group marches on the grounds of Max Bell Centre for their second lap in Calgary on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022. The chanting of “Esa, hoisa, esa, hoisa”, which is translated as “left, right” were sung alongside Midnight Taiko playing Ohayashi, traditional music for the parade. (Alejandro Melgar/The Emery Weal).
The Onmikoshi parade group marches on the grounds of Max Bell Centre in Calgary on Saturday, Aug. 13,
The Omikoshi parade group marches onwards for the Calgary Japanese Festival at the Max Bell Centre in Calgary on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022. The amount of beams that hold the palanquin can range from four to eight or more. (Alejandro Melgar/The Emery Weal).
The Onmikoshi parade group marches on the grounds of Max Bell Centre in Calgary on Saturday, Aug. 13,
The Omikoshi parade group marches on the grounds of Max Bell Centre in Calgary on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022. The drummers beat kept the bearers in check with their gait, as their movement of the palanquin up and down, and forwards had to be maintained. (Alejandro Melgar/The Emery Weal).
A Shinto priest finishes his final prayer for the Omikoshi parade group after their march through Max Bell Centre in Calgary on Saturday, Aug. 13,
A Shinto priest finishes his final prayer for the Omikoshi parade group after their march on the grounds of Max Bell Centre in Calgary. (Alejandro Melgar/The Emery Weal).

Alejandro Melgar

Alejandro Melgar graduated from the SAIT online-print journalism stream. He is the current club president of The Emery Weal, and he is a contributor. You can find his work on LiveWire Calgary and on his website at www.alejandromelgar.ca

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