Japan: Wakayama Prefecture: Kudoyama Sanada Festival/ 九度山 真田 祭り

Wakayama Prefecture located in southwestern Kii Peninsula is known for its mild climate, lush green mountains and a coast line which stretches over 370 miles. It is also home to the town of Kudoyama, located within the Ito District.

Why is Kudoyama of particular interest? Because it is the town where Yukimura Sanada, the most famous member of the Sanada clan and his father, Masayuki were exiled. It is also where the well-attended Sanada Matsuri takes place.

With NHK’s historical TV drama, “Sanadamaru” gaining popularity, interest in the Sanada clan has increased drawing visitors to such places as Ueda Castle in Nagano, Osaka Castle and Kudoyama in Wakayama Prefecture, where the Sanada clan has had some history.

Yukimura Sanada’s birth name was Nobushige. He was the second son of Masayuki Sanada, a loyal vassal of Takeda Shingen and a highly regarded samurai. The tables turned on the Sanada clan when Yukimura aligned with Ishida Mitsunari, the leader of the anti-Tokugawa movement while Masayuki remained loyal to Tokugawa Ieyasu. It is said that this was merely a strategic alliance to ensure the survival of the Sanada clan. Unfortunately, Ieyasu was not going to let the betrayal go unnoticed. He sent his son, Hidetada to lay siege on Ueda Castle, home of the Sanada clan. The battle lasted eight days and the Sanadas held strong against the attack even though they were outnumbered 2,000 against 40,000. In the end, Ieyasu spared the lives of Masayuki and Yukimura but he exiled them to Kudoyama.

Masayuki passed away in Kudoyama on July 13, 1611. Yukimura came out of exile and rose against Tokugawa Ieyasu during the Winter Battle of Osaka Castle in 1614. There was another Battle of Osaka during the summer of 1615, where Yukimura and his forces engaged the army of Matsudaira Tadanao of the Echizen Province. However, Yukimura was badly wounded and too tired. He collapsed and asked Tadanao’s forces to decapitate him, allowing him an honorable death in true samurai style. It was reported that a man named Nishio Nizaemon chopped off Sanada’s head.

During the first week of May, Kudoyama honors Masayuki and Yukimura Sanada with an annual two-day festival. The highlight of the festival is the assembly of approximately 200 costumed participants and musicians parading through town and reenacting the battles that made the Sanadas famous. In true matsuri style, there are taiko performances, food stalls and souvenir stands set up in the festival area.

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Kudoyama is known for its persimmons. This is a local dish featuring sushi wrapped in persimmon leaves.

In addition to the annual festival, there are several Sanada sites worth visiting including Sanada-an, a temple which was built where the Sanada home once stood. Also worth visiting is the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Jisonin. The temple was established in the year 816 and was the temple where women were allowed to worship as Koyasan, the center for Shingon Buddhism was off limits to women.

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Wakayama is easily accessible by train, located approximately one hour south of Osaka and two hours away from Kyoto.

Location(s): 5-5, Nyugo, Kudoyama-cho Ito-gun, Wakayama 648-0161

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