The river festival at Tsushima shrine, a pair of 8-fold screen paintings

Edo period, about Kambun era, AD 1661-1673

This large impressive pair of eight-fold screens shows the boat procession on the Tenno River that was the climax to the festival at the Tsushima shrine. This grand festival was of the three famous festivals of the province of Owari (modern Aichi Prefecture) located between Edo (Tokyo) and Kyoto. Tsushima is to the west of the city of Nagoya. It originated as a shrine town and became an important post town on the Tōkaidō highway during the Edo period (1600-1868).

The boat procession was held overnight from the 14th to the 15th day of the sixth month (late summer). Floats were mounted on pairs of boats lashed together. On the evening of the 14th, there were five floats, decorated with hundreds of lighted lanterns (right screen). On the morning of the following day six floats came like great towers, some surmounted with dragon sculptures (left screen). Each tower had platforms for puppet shows and other entertainments. One of the floats carried a number of young men armed with cloth-bound halberds. One after the other they leapt into the water and swam to Nakanoshima where they dedicated their halberds at the shrine. The young men were warmly welcomed as it was thought that water from the cloth had the power to heal wounds. Along the river banks there are numerous places of entertainment such as a Kabuki dance stage, and stalls and shops selling all kinds of food and other goods.

Although the Tsushima Festival is shown in several prints and printed books, this pair of screens is one of only eight known paintings of the event. The Festival is still held annually in Tsushima every July, when boats, carrying towers and floats decked with lanterns, attract large numbers of tourists.

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The river festival at Tsushima shrine, a pair of 8-fold screen paintings

Left screen

  • Left screen: panels 1-2

    Left screen: panels 1-2

  • Left screen: panels 3-4

    Left screen: panels 3-4

  • Left screen: panels 5-6

    Left screen: panels 5-6


More information


L. Smith, V. Harris and T. Clark, Japanese art: masterpieces in (London, The British Museum Press, 1990)

I. Hirayama and T. Kobayashi (eds.), Hizō Nihon bijutsu taikan, vol. 1 (Tokyo, Kodansha, 1992)


Height: 1510.000 mm
Width: 4650.000 mm

Museum number

Asia JA JP 1379-80 (1881.12-10.1717-1718)



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