Hadaka Kasedori is the traditional New Year’s event handed down in the Kirigome area in Kami Town, Miyagi Prefecture. It is held on the night of January 15 every year in hope of fire prevention and getting rid of bad luck. It is prefecturally designated as an intangible folk cultural property.
This is a very unique festival, in which half-naked men with “Hebiso (soot from the Japanese traditional kitchen range)” on the faces visit each of the houses in the village. They are treated with sake and meals, while applying Hebiso on the faces of the family members.
This custom is said to be a kind of rite of passage in that boys over 15 years old undergo physical hardship. New participants, newly married men and men with unlucky ages must wear straw hats and Shimenawa (sacred rice-straw ropes) over their loincloths; and then they stand in front of each houses and are poured cold water all over their bodies.
Nakano Shrine is located in Nakano, Tsukui-cho, Sagamihara City, Kanagawa Prefecture. The enshrined deities are Mihosusumi no Mikoto, Toyoukehime no Mikoto and Takuhata Chijime no Mikoto. It is said that the shrine was founded in 835 and restored in 1571. The main hall is made of Japanese cypress wood and decorated with relief carvings. The shrine is known for its annual festival with a history of 300 years, which is held on the 4th weekend of July every year. In this festival, six floats march in the town with a portable shrine. The competition of the floats carrying Oayashi musicians on the stages is very powerful. On New Year’s Day, visitors can experience “Chinowa Kuguri,” in which sins and dirtiness are expelled by walking through a large ring made of thatch. Though old, Nakano Shrine is still visited by a lot of local worshippers today.
Takisanji Temple in Okazaki City, Aichi Prefecture, is a temple of the Tendai sect of Buddhism. The principal object of worship is Sho Kannon. Oni Matsuri (Ogre Festival) is held to pray for peaceful life and a good harvest in the coming year. It is held on the Saturday closest to February 7th as this is the New Year in the old Lunar Calendar. The festival is famous in the Mikawa region as a traditional religious ceremony to greet the beginning of spring.
It originates in the prayer service performed for Minamoto no Yoritomo in the Kamakura period (1192-1333). The festival was discontinued for some time and revived as an official event of the Tokugawa Shogunate in the era ruled by the 3rd Shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu in the early Edo period (1603-1868).
The highlight of the festival is a valiant fire ceremony, in which the demons are being chased away with fire and noise. The men in white clothes are chasing the demons around the main hall while hitting the burning torches hard against the balustrades of the decks. The big bamboo torch placed in the center of the precinct bursts with big noises and fire sparks are falling like powder snow. The fire on the big torch is flaming up as if it is going to burn the main hall. The dance performed by the demons is very gallant. After the ceremony, people pick up the burned-out bamboo branches and bring them home as a talisman to get rid of ill-luck.
On March 3 each year, Hina Matsuri, or Girl's Day, is held at home to pray for the growth and happiness of daughters.
Hina Matsuri is one of five seasonal festivals in Japan and the origin of the festival is as a purification ceremony held in March.
In Japan, dolls were used to drive evil spirits out and this custom came to be connected with toy dolls used in 'Hina Plays'. The hina dolls were decorated and became the basis for the Hina Matsuri.
Lozenge-shaped rice cakes are one of the offerings made at the festival. One of the base ingredients, mugwort, is supposed to remove negative energies. White sake is offered, too, and is supposed to purify the body. A clam is also offered to pray for a good match for the girl who will fit like two parts of a shell. Many other lucky things are offered to pray for the girl's growth.
Muramatsu-san Kokuzo-do is a temple established by Priest Kukai in 807. Since then it had been under the protection of the successive domain lords of Satake clan for 500 years. In the Edo period, Tokugawa Ieyasu dedicated the land that produced 50 koku of rice to the temple. It was flourished under the protection of Tokugawa Mitsukuni. In back of the main hall is Muramatsu Daijingu Shrine, to which the deity of Ise Shrine was imparted during the reign of Emperor Kanmu (737-806). The shrine is famous for the custom of “Jusan Mairi,” in which 13-year-old boys and girls visit the shrine to pray for their future success of life. Kokuzo-do now belongs to Buzan School of Shingon Sect. Its main object of worship, the image of Kokuzo Bosatsu (Buddhist deity of wisdom and memory) is counted as one of 3 Finest Images of Kokuzo Bosatsu in Japan together with Asama Kokuzo-son in Ise and Yanaizu Kokuzo-son in Aizu. At the present time it is visited by a lot of people seeking for escaping evil spirits and success of life.
The hagoita originated in China and was brought over to Japan during the Muromachi period. At first, it was only used as a toy, or as equipment to play hanetsuki (a badminton-like game), but it gradually became an article to drive away evil spirits, and later became a charm given to women on oshogatsu (new year's day).
During the Edo period, hagoita decorated with pictures of Kabuki actors were very popular. Today, the hagoita has been designated as a traditional Tokyo handicraft.
Since the Edo period, a famous fair called Hagoitaichi takes place at Asakusa Temple over three days from December 17th. Many visitors come each year. The decorated hagoita sold at this event are famous for being made in Kasukabe, or Iwatsuki-ku in Saitama Prefecture.
Additionally, at the Hagoitaichi, hagoita with pictures of the people who received the most attention during the year, are notable and are often taken up by the media.