Procession of Aizu feudal lords joined by actresses Ayase, Suzuki

24 September 2018

A procession of people dressed as feudal lords, samurai warriors and other members of the Aizu clan was held on Sept. 23 as the main event of the annual "Aizu Festival" staged in autumn in Aizuwakamatsu city, Fukushima Prefecture, parading through streets starting from and coming back to Tsurugajo Castle's keep. Participants from within and outside the city, clad in the costumes of successive Aizu domain lords, "Byakkotai" (White Tiger Brigade) teenage warriors and other clan members, portrayed what looked like scenes of a historic picture scroll.

Actress Haruka Ayase, who played the lead role of Yae Niijima in public broadcaster NHK's 2013 period drama series "Yae no Sakura" (Yae's Cherry Blossom) set against the backdrop of the Aizu region, took part in the event as a special guest for the fifth straight year while another special guest, Rio Suzuki, who performed the role of the heroine in childhood days, participated for the first time, together adding grace to the festival. The two were dressed in their respective clothes worn in the drama. Ayase wore a brightly colored "uchikake" (a long kimono robe) over battle attire during a morning appearance, changing to a dress in the afternoon. Suzuki wore a kimono made of Aizu cotton on both occasions. The kimono dress was a makeover of what Ayase wore in the drama.

As the procession proceeded, Ayase called out to roadside onlookers, partly in the local Aizu dialect. "It's a bit hot and humid. Are you alright?" Suzuki also spoke in the dialect. "I want to do something to make myself useful," she said, repeating some of her drama lines. "I want to be strong someday and return a favor to Aizuwakamatsu. You elders, I want to come to Aizu once again!" she said, drawing applause from the crowd.

As this year fell on the 150th anniversary of the start of the 1868-1869 Boshin civil war between forces seeking to return Japan to imperial rule and troops supporting the Tokugawa shogunate, the procession's organization focused on the "Ouetsu Reppan Domei" (alliance of the domains of some northern and eastern regions). People related to the Sendai and Tanagura domains joined the event for the first time while those associated with the Yonezawa and Nagaoka domains also walked in the procession. Some 550 people joined the parade over a stretch of about 7 kilometers, roughly 50 more than usual. Many spectators came from within and outside the prefecture.

【Photo】 Actresses Haruka Ayase (left) and Rio Suzuki, clad in their drama costumes, wave to spectators during a parade on Shinmei-dori street in Aizuwakamatsu.

(Translated by Kyodo News)