The san-non-san festival in Arita 有田の「さんのんさん」

Hello everybody~  Manuel です!

Last weekend on Sunday (May, 22th), a very rare cultural festival took place in Arita. The citizens of Arita call it the “san-non-san” さんのんさん (written „san’ou-sai“ 山王祭). The san-non-san is such a rare festival because it only happens once in twelve years and even though nobody living nowadays actually can say when it started, it has been told from generation to generation and been carried out every twelve years, regarding to the earthly branches, in the “year of the monkey”, which exactly happens to be this year.

It is so rare that the memories of people even having experienced it once before are only vague. Thus, Arita citizens who haven’t experienced it before are likely to have heard of it now for the first time of their lives.



The festival takes place only in the year of the monkey, in which a rare reunion of two monkeys is held. You might have heard about Tanabata, the “star festival”, in which Hikoboshi (represented by the star Altair) and Orihime (represented by Vega), the two stars living separately on the two sides of the milky way, are allowed to meet only once a year, on the 7th day of the 7th month. The sad love story between the two characters of the san-non-san is about a male and a female monkey who are placed in two different districts in Arita. The female one is situated in the district of Kami-kohira 上幸平 , made of white porcelain and the male one, made of stone is living in the Nakadaru 中樽 district, which is near JR Kami-Arita station. Being carried by children on a mikoshi, a portable shrine, the female monkey, which is usually sitting in the San’ou Shrine is going to visit the male monkey, sitting on a rock, the Iwa-tenjin 岩天神. For the very short moment of about half an hour, they are sitting next to each other, while Shintō rituals are carried out and dedication dances are performed. The female monkey then will be carried back to the San’ou Shrine, having to wait twelve years in there for the next time to go and meet the male monkey living in the neighbour district.



pecially for this event, the women living there, started doing 12.000 handicraft sagemon, which are small good-luck objects made out of colourful cloth. On last Sunday, they were hanging down almost everywhere in front of the houses in these two districts and since so many of them have been made, the women living in Kami-kohira and Nakadaru started to handicraft them even two years ago.



By a tremendous coincidence, this year’s san-non-san exactly matches the year of the 400th anniversary since Arita porcelain and porcelain in Japan in general have been started to be produced! I truly enjoyed seeing the short reunion of these two monkeys and attending this rare and so local cultural event! J



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