Riverboat piligrimage heralds arrival of spring in western Japan

Marking the beginning of spring, a ceremony took place on Saturday on the Kumano-gawa River, a UNESCO World Heritage site in western Japan.

A wooden boat about eight-metres long was purified with Japanese sake and salt, as people prayed for a safe season. The craft then floated off, carrying women in traditional costumes.

The journey echoes pilgrimages of emperors and samurais, with visitors enjoying a trip of about 16 kilometres to visit shrines around Shingu City.

The tours run until the end of November.