The Ameichi Festival: Matsumoto’s Edo Period Celebration That Continues Today

At the beginning of each year, the “Ameichi” Festival takes place in and around Matsumoto. “Ame” is the Japanese word for candy and the “Ameichi” Festival is a market devoted to it. The Ameichi Festival has a long history, one that can be traced back to and connected with the legend of Uesugi Kenshin who ruled Niigata Prefecture during the Warring States Period (1467-1615).

The Origins of the Ameichi Festival

Ameichi was one of Matsumoto’s largest festivals during the Edo Period (1603-1868) – along with the Tenjin Festival at Fukashi Shrine and there are records attesting that candy and salt were sold at the New Year market since at least 1615. In addition, it is said that such the festival only took place within the territory of the old Matsumoto clan, and since it is an area also connected with the “Salt Road”, it likely also incorporated the selling of salt.

“Sending Salt to the Enemy”

In the middle of the Warring States Period, Matsumoto was controlled by the Takeda clan. The Takeda clan enjoyed an advantageous partnership with samurai families of the Pacific Ocean, from where they sourced salt, but in 1567, Takeda broke the alliance and the trade of salt ceased.

Since Matsumoto is landlocked and without access to the sea, it was very difficult for the people to obtain salt. They were suffered because of it. Uesugi Kenshin, who controlled the area around the Sea of Japan was sorry for the people and decided to send salt to Matsumoto, even though he was also at war with Takeda and thus emerged the famous Japanese expression of “sending salt to the enemy”. It’s a story reflected in the selling of salt at the Ameichi Festival today.

A Festival Intended to Herald a Prosperous Year to Come

The Matsumoto Ameichi Festival will be held on Sunday 14th January 2024, from 10:00 am to 15:30. Admission is free.

The Ameichi Festival continues to this day with many food and other vendors selling candy, salt and lucky charms. A parade also passes through the city including participants dressed as Japan’s “Shichifukujin” or “Seven Lucky Gods”.

Many streets become a pedestrian only zone for the duration of the festival. And in that zone, Japanese drum groups perform while a traditional tug-of-war is held with participants divided into two groups mimicking the Takeda and Uesugi armies of the Warring States Period. As you can tell, Ameichi is a festival about a lot more than just candy!

The Sweet Story of Matsumoto’s Many Candy Stores

Perhaps because of the Ameichi Festival, Matsumoto has long been home to many candy stores. Once upon time there were as many as twenty dedicated candy stores. Today, only three traditional candy stores remain, the oldest of which has been in operation for around 350 years. If you are interested in the story of Matsumoto, including its connection to candy and its famous candy market, please join our Matsumoto Castle Town Walking Tour!

Matsumoto Discovery Walking Tour
Matsumoto Castle Town Walking Tour

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