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[Feature] Hatsu-ichi, Yamagata’s first market of the year


※This article was first posted on February 2019
The 2021 edition was cancelled.

The first market of Yamagata City is held on January 10 every year.
It is a New Year tradition that boasts a history of about 400 years.

This was my first time to visit and I interviewed a lot of people.
This is my report on the first market with information from knowledgeable people about the relation between the first market and 〇〇 …

1. Stalls

First, lets look at the most fun, the stalls!

The first market of Yamagata city is a traditional event that has been held since the beginning of the Edo period.
People used to buy and replace everyday items at the New Year, looking for them at the first market of the year.

In that regard
They sell old-fashioned woodworking products such as mortars, pestles and chopping boards, in addition to good luck charms such as turnips (“kabu”) which symbolizes commercial stocks (also “kabu”), “shirahige” (meaning “white beard”) which expresses longevity, sweets, dumplings, etc.​ ​


They say that there are 207 shops this year.


2. Events

There are many events of interest around noon.

In front of AZ Nanokamachi, mochi-making dance, a kagura procession, distribution of sacred sake, rice cakes and natto (fermented soybean) soup. There is a puppet play at the Yamagata Grand Hotel and a coloring corner at the Tokamachi street corner. All sorts of fun!


↑ provided by Yamagata Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Ah! A kagura procession!
Might as well just let them bite me.


3. Market God

Nowadays there are candies of many flavors on sale!
There was green tea, cocoa and even banana and strawberry-milk!


So I asked many people about the first market in Yamagata city.

“Well then, you have to go to Yudono shrine!” said the owner of the Iwabuchi Tea Store (right end of the photo).
Without knowing the details, I went to the Yudono shrine next to Bunshokan.


About 5 minutes away from the first market…


There it is.
The Yudono shrine is known and revered as a guardian of the prefecture.

And, next to it…


It is a shrine that enshrines the market god.

The deity is called Yaei Kotoshironushi no mikoto, also known as “Ebisu”, one of the Seven Lucky Gods of Oshu Yamagata.
This first market is famous item in Yamagata, but the center of the market is actually this “First Market God”.

So, here’s a question. What is the body enshrining this First Market God?

The answer is…


A stone!

Formally it is a natural rock of andesite.

This enshrined body is said to be displayed only on January 10 for the first market of the year, and on November 23 for the Ebisu Festival held during the Kumade-ichi market.
I came on such special day.

But what is the relationship between the stone and the market?
I inquired about the origins of the first market to the chief priest of the Yudonosan Shrine, Mr. Shibuya.​ ​


According to chief priest Shibuya,
this stone was originally an essential stone to delimit Yamagata castle town. The market was held at the border in what is now Tokamachi.

Tokamachi was the site of the first market of the year,

​ ​
It was named so because the market (“ichi”) was held on the 10th day of the month (“toka”).

​ ​
Therefore, the first market in Yamagata city is held on January 10 every year near Tokamachi!


The stone that originally existed to separate the town came to be deified and a rope was stretched around it. After many twists and turns, the stone assigned to the Yudono-san Shrine, and became revered as a shrine within the grounds.

At the shrine, stating at dawn on January 10 (currently at 9:00 am), turnips and other good luck items are distributed. Visitors come to first pray before heading to the first market.

There are now fewer visitors aware of this tradition, but those aware of the history do keep the tradition of visiting the shrine before going to the market, and come back to it after having having completed their shopping on their way home.​ ​

I was able to discover an interesting history unexpectedly


4. Conclusion

This year (2019) was blessed with the weather, it seems that there were 180,000 people, over 20,000 more than last year.

As per Mr. Murayama of the Region Promotion Section of the Yamagata Chamber of Commerce and Industry (right side of the photo), the population is getting older and there are less shops every year
but “because it is a traditional event that has been going on for a long time,
I want to encourage more people to open more stores. “we want to encourage more people to open stores.”​ ​


I thought about the past history and the thoughts of people in the town, and I thought that I would like to come back again.

Detailed information

Hatsuichi, the first market of the year in Yamagata city

Hatsuichi, the first market of the year in Yamagata city

Tokamachi, Honcho and Nanokamachi in Yamagata city along National Route 112 and around

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