There are nine neighborhoods in Yamabe that take part in the festival, each with their own “boat.” The boats, called “fune,” are a kind of traditional wooden float with two huge wheels on either side and are adorned with lavish wood carvings depicting different scenes or legends. Each fune, most of them being a couple of hundred years old, has its own unique carvings and color patterns for the cloth used to create the boat shape.
The timing of the festival coincides with the planting of rice and other crops; on the festival day, the fune depart their respective neighborhoods and make their way to the local shrine, Susukigawa Shrine, to ask the gods for a good harvest in the fall. You might wonder why there are giant boats parading around the mountainous region of Matsumoto – there are many stories, but according to one of the elder men in the Yamabe area, the region was settled by migrants from around Izumo on the Japan Sea. Another story tells of migrants from seaside areas in Kyushu, the Azumi people. Though the new settlers were originally from ocean-side areas, they brought their culture and customs with them, including the Ofune Festival.