Two of the mikoshi in Shimodate Gion Festival (Shimodate City)
Shimodate is in Ibaraki Prefecture, two hours from Tokyo by train. Located in a tranquil rural setting, the city is dissected by four rivers, the Kinugawa, Gogyogawa, Kokaigawa, and Oyagawa. It is a pleasant place with a population of about 64,000.
Known as the granary of the northern Kanto Plain, Shimodate is famous for growing rice, especially the highly prized Koshihikari variety. It also produces a rich variety of fruit and vegetables. It's an important source of food for Tokyo and surrounding areas.
The history of Shimodate goes back a long way. Visitors can still see the ruins of the castle built by the Isa family, which governed the area during the Kamakura period (1192-1338). But Shimodate really prospered during the fifteenth century as the castle town of the local warlord, or daimyo, of the Mizunoya family. The area's booming economy owed much to its role as an industrial and transport hub. Many artists visited from Edo (now Tokyo), which was already the administrative and political center of Japan, and depicted the city in their works. The city has many festivities in the summer, including the Lantern Festival, held on the first Saturday of August every year on the Gogyogawa, the Fireworks Festival held on the banks of the Kinugawa on the first Sunday of August every year, and the Shimodate Gion Festival.