Sorayoi, handed down in Chiran-cho, Minamikyushu City, Kagoshima Prefecture, is a moon festival event to appreciate the moon and the god of land for rich harvest. It is nationally designated as an Important Intangible Cultural Property.
The origin of the festival and its name is unclear. Some says the name derives from the words “Sore wa yoi,” meaning “That’s good.” Others say it is the corruption of “Sora ga yoi,” meaning “The sky looks nice.”
The festival begins when the moon rises. Two boys go into the straw house called “Warakozun,” which is placed at the center of a rice paddy and start revolving it clockwise, while other boys wearing the loincloth, straw coats and straw hats go counterclockwise, mystically dancing and singing “Sorayoi Sorayoi Sorayoiyoi.” around the Warakozun.
After the dance, the adult team vs. the children team play a tug of war three times. Then, they destroy the Warakozun and make a sumo ring out of the straw and do sumo wrestling.
Sorayoi is a mystic but enjoyable traditional event.
Taue Odori (the rice planting dance) handed down in Akiu Town in Taihaku-ku, Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture, is a traditional folk performing art that is nationally designated as an Important Intangible Cultural Property. It is said that the dance dates back to the 12th century, when the Heike refugees, who settled in the Nagafukuro area, began the dance to recall the good old days.
This rice planting dance is danced by a large number of dancers. It is said that as many as from 50 to 60 dancers or over 100 at peak time joined the dance in the past. The dances are dedicated to Nagafukuro Myojin Shrine, Baba Otaki Fudo-do Temple and Yumoto Yakushi-do Temple from the middle of April to the beginning of May every year.
Two boys taking a part of “Yajuro” appear on the stage followed by the two young boys taking a part of “Suzufuri (the bell men)” and give the prologue, after which the rice planting dance is performed by 8 to 14 girl dancers called “Saotome” in hope for a rich harvest in the coming fall.
Enzu-no-wari is a traditional lunar new year festival held in Miyato, Matsushima of Miyagi Prefecture. The festival includes the 'tori-oi' in the Tsukishima area of Miyato. This is a festival to pray for a good harvest, good catch of fish, family safety and success in business. The Enzu-no-wari is designated as an important intangible cultural folk asset of Japan, since it is a valuable example of an historical festival held today.
Every year, for seven days from 11-16 January, boys from 2nd grade in elementary schools and 2nd grade in junior high schools of the Tsukishima area stay at a grotto under the Isuzu Shrine. The boys eat, sleep and go to school together, and live by themselves during this period.
On the night of the 14th, all the boys visit every house in the Tsukishima area. As they walk, they strike their pine staffs against the ground chanting 'enzu-no-wari, touryouba, kasurawatte, suotsukete, enzogashimasanagase' ('When you go after the vicious bird, crush its head, and send it away to the island of Ezo').
On the next day, they wake up early and make a fire from gathered wood, then chase the birds by calling 'Ho-i, Ho-i'. The boys roast their bellies with the smoke and pray for their good health that year.
By respectfully following tradition, these children will hand down a tradition to future generations.
Chigo-mai Dance held at Kamo Shrine is a traditional folk performing art handed down in Shimomura town in Imizu City, Toyama Prefecture since the ancient times. Shimomura Kamo Shrine was founded in 1066 in the manor possessed by Kamo Mioya Shrine in Kyoto.
Chigo-mai Dance is performed on September 4th as a part of the shrine’s annual festival, in which four boys, aged from 10 to 11, dedicate nine dances such as “Hoko-no-mai,” “Hayashi-uta,” “Kocho-no-mai” and “Ama-no-mai” to thank for rich harvest and pray for national peace and safety of families. Still innocent-looking little boys in imperial court style costume and with serious countenance dance elegantly on the tentatively built stage. Along with elegant tunes of music played on the stage, their performances lead the spectators to the world of the nobility at the Heian court.
During the Tango no Sekku (Boy’s Festival) period in Kochi prefecture, a large flag called “Furafu” is set out with Koinobori (carp streamer) and Nobori (banner). The word “Furafu” is said to have come from a Dutch word “vlag (pronounced as fu-la-fu)” meaning a flag. All the steps in making a Furafu are done by hand. The largest Furafu is about 4 m in length and about 7 m in width, while even a smaller one is about 2 m in length and about 3 m in width. It is a gallant and beautiful decoration. The patterns drawn on Furafu are lively boys that appear in fairly tales like Kintaro or Momotaro, gallant warriors like Toyotomi Hideyoshi or samurai fighting in the Battle of Kawanakajima, and lucky designs like Shichifukujin (Seven Deities of Good Fortune) or Takarabune (treasure ship). Those Furafu are given to a boy as a present from his parents or relatives. Colorful Furafu flying in the clear sky of May give cheerful atmosphere to the towns in Tosa.
Boy's Festival is held each year on 5th May to pray for a boy's growth. It is otherwise known as Tango or Shobu seasonal festival.
On the tango day, on the 5th day of the 5th month in the lunar calendar, which was supposed to be the day when spring moved into summer, people in China and Japan prayed for their health and drank sake made of shobu (calamus: a medical herb). This is the origin of Boy's Day.
In the Kamakura period, shobu (calamus) doubled in meaning with the homonym for shobu (respect for samurai). Hence armor and shobu dolls were used as decoration and people prayed for the health of boys and their success as samurai.
Offerings on Boy's Day include rice cakes wrapped in in oak leaves. The significance of this is that oak will not wither until a new bud appears, which is a symbol that the family also will not die out.
Colorful carp banners are set in gardens. This comes from parents' wishes for their son's success. The carp are a symbol of success. In folk belief, carps swam up rivers until they reached a waterfall, where they transformed into dragons. Carp festivals are held in many places and the festival Carp Banners On the River by the Shimanto River in Kochi Prefecture is especially popular with over 500 carp banners flying over the river.
There is a custom in Japan in which people purchase or receive a hamaya (evil-repelling arrow) on a visit to a shrine for the first time (hatsumode) in the new year (oshogatsu). The arrow is a good luck charm for good fortune in the coming year. Sometimes the arrow comes in a set with a hamayayumi (evil-repelling bow).
The origins of the hamaya come from a ritual called 'jarai', a customary ceremony that took place at new year in the imperial courts to exhibit people's abilities with bow and arrow. The target used during this ritual was called 'hama', hence the names 'hamaya' ('the arrow that hits the target') and 'hamayumi' ('bow used for the target').
Originally, jarai only took place in imperial courts, but during the mid-Heian period, the word 'hama' ('ha' means 'destroy' and 'ma' means 'evil') changed its meaning. The ritual then became a custom at new year in which common people gave a toy bow and arrow to any family with a male child.
Other customs that developed include setting up a hamaya on a ridge in the direction of the 'demon gate' when building a new house, and sending hamaya and hamayumi to relatives and friends on the 'hatsu sekku' (first annual festival) of a newborn baby.
Hashimoto Yakichi shouten is a craft studio that has for many years hand made koinobori or carp-shaped streamers. The studio opened in the 14th year of the Meiji period and now, as the third master, Takashi Hashimoto makes the koinobori. Hashimoto Yakichi shouten is the only studio that makes koinobori by hand in the Saitama prefecture Kazo area. Kazo is the foremost area for koinobori production in Japan. There are reasons for making koinobori by hand. The first reason is thata handcrafted koinobori ha an original "feel" that makes it different from a machine-made one. In addition to the special "feel", a hand-made koinobori uses special pigments that do not discolor easily. Moreover, a hand-made koinobori is made of nylon and not cotton because when it is raised, it looks more powerful. On the other hand, the studio's principle is "Changing tradition slightly is one way to maintain tradition". From this belief, the studio has been successfully creating koinobori that fit the demands of present-day society, in addition to the "bushuu" koinobori that have been continuously made since the studio was founded. Animated and powerful koinobori will be seen flying this year again, in many parts of Japan.