Giant Japanese Snake Festival - 2013 Year of the Snake
By David Weber
10 Jan 2013
To honor this year's Chinese Zodiac animal the Snake, I offer this look at an interesting unique festival from the small town of Sekikawa in Niigata prefecture where they parade an enormous snake made of bamboo and straw. The snake is 82.8 meters long or about 271.6 feet and was weighs about 2 tons requiring 500 people to carry it and is in the Guinness Book of World Record as longest snake made of bamboo and straw (wasn't aware there was such a category).
The festival is a type of Obon celebration - a time when the Japanese remember the spirits of the dead. It also is reminder of a terrible flood which hit Sekikawa in 1967 costing a number of people their lives. The date was August 28th which is why the snake is the exact length of 82.8 to reflect that.
As to why a giant snake, one has to dig further back into the misty past of Sekikawa. Legends say the area was troubled by a giant snake which had been a cursed woodcutter's wife. She was transformed into a giant snake when she ate the meat of another giant snake her husband had killed and forbade her from eating. The villagers eventually were able to the snake but it was thought centuries later after the flood that the snake's spirit was restless so the festival was held to appease her possibly angry spirit.