The Naked Festival is held on the second Sunday of March every year at Sekison Shrine in Muyari in Wakayanagi Town, Kurihara City, Miyagi Prefecture. The god enshrined at Sekison Shrine is worshiped by local people as the god of fire prevention since a big fire was extinguished by the divine power during the Muromachi period (1336-1573). After the fire was ceased, people began to dedicate the Naked Festival in hope of receiving protection of the god and it has become a traditional Shinto event of the town.
On the morning of the festival day, when it is still cold in this district, several men of Yaku-doshi (the unlucky age) wearing only loincloths and head bands visit every house in the town, where they take up the pail storing water for extinguishing fire and pour water over themselves and then dynamically throw water at the roof of the house. Praying for fire prevention of the town, they walk about 2 km to visit 120 houses. When they throw up water with a powerful call, the spectators erupt into cheers and applause. When the festival is over, the cold eases with the arrival of spring.
Kazan Shrine located at the ruins site of Demaru (the outermost compound) of Tahara Castle in Tahara City, Aichi Prefecture is a shrine enshrining Watanabe Kazan, a Japanese painter, scholar and the senior councilor of the Tahara domain in the late Edo period (1603-1868).
The local people planned to build a shrine to honor Kazan’s virtuousness in 1941; however, as it was during World War II, they could not commence the construction. In 1946, they bought a temporary pavilion used for a shrine in Inasa Town in Shizuoka Prefecture and founded Kazan Shrine at the present site. The shrine pavilion was destroyed by Ise Bay Typhoon in 1959 and reconstructed later.
Born at Kamiyashiki (the main resident) of the Tahara domain in Edo in 1793, he first served the domain lord’s little son at the age of eight. He started to learn Confucianism of Mencius and Zhu Xi at the age of 13 and became a great scholar in Confucianism as well as Rangaku (Western learning), from which it is believed that the one who visits this shrine will be able to improve his /her learning ability.
On the memorial day of Kazan on October 11, the annual festival is held at this shrine. The memorial service is held in front of Kazan’s grave located in Johoji Temple in the city and the Shinto ritual is performed at Kazan Shrine. Kazan’s portrait is drawn on the Ema-plates provided at the shrine.
Shimada Candy Festival takes place every December 14th at Yoshioka-Hachiman Shrine in Taiwa-cho, Kurokawa-gun, Miyagi Prefecture.
Yoshioka-Hachiman Shrine is said to date back to 1618 when Date Munekiyo, the third son of Date Masamune, and founder of Sendai Clan, moved from Shimokusa to Yoshioka and the shrine was transferred as well and re-built in the current location.
The festival is said to have begun on December 14th sometime between 1615 and 1623 when the priest of the shrine fell in love with a bride with a Shimada wedding hairstyle and he became ill. Villagers, worried about the priest, donated candies in the shape of the Shimada hairstyle to the shrine, and that led to the priest recovering from his illness.
It is believed that the shrine makes love come true and many people, wishing for luck with love, visit the shrine to seek candies.
Shimada Candy Festival is a lively festival crowded with stores selling Shimada hairstyle candies and with many young people wishing for good matchmaking.
Betcha Festival held for three days from November 1 to 3 every year in Onomichi City, Hiroshima Prefecture is a bizarre festival. This festival is said to have its origin in an attempt to ward off the plague during the Edo Era (1603-1868). Three men wearing masks of Betcha (demon gods), respectively named Shoki, Soba and Beta, walked through the town with another man in a lion costume and drove the plague out of town, which became established as a festival in the later eras.
Today, the three demons and the lion run through the city, dancing to the beat of drums and bells. They chase the children on the streets and Shoki hit them on the head with a bamboo whisk, while Soba and Beta poke them on the body with sticks called “Iwaibo (celebration sticks).” The beaten children are said to be in sound health for the coming year. Toddlers are held by their parents and subjected to a “thrashing,” even though they are frightened.
As it is said that being hit by Betcha makes people bright and a person poked by Soba and Beta will be blessed with children, grown-ups also crowd around the demons. Be it blessing or not, it’s a hard time for the children in town.
Terashita Kannon is a temple located in Akabonai, Hashikami-cho, Sannohe-gun, Aomori Prefecture. The principal object of worship is Sho Kannon. It was founded in the Kamakura period (1192-1333) as the 1st Holy Place of 33 Kannon Pilgrimage in Oshu Nukabe.
In the Kannon Hall surrounded with dense forest of cedar trees, a statue of Kannon, 65 cm tall, which is said to have been carved out from Japanese judas wood by a high priest Gyoki in 724.
It is believed that if you worship 33 Kannon statues of this temple, you will receive the same benefit as you visit 33 Kannon Holy Places in Kinki. As the idea of Shinbutsu Shugo (fusion of Shinto and Buddhism) has been practiced in this area, Ushioyama Shrine is located in the precinct. Today it is visited by a lot of pilgrims, who quietly offer prayers in the precinct.
The waterfall in back of the main hall was the training ashram for mountain practitioners in the old days. Local people have come to worship and take this water as the miracle water to give perpetual youth and longevity. It was selected as the prefecture’s fine water by the governor in 1989.
Hanauma Festival is held on October 3 every year at Itsukinomiya Shrine in Nagiso Town, Nagano Prefecture. It has served as the annual autumn festival to pray for a rich harvest of the year for 400 years. The townspeople walk through the town from Tadachi Station to the shrine, accompanied by the music of drums and Japanese flutes played by local elementary school children. With them are three horses decorated with five-colored paper on long narrow strips of bamboo.
After the parade arrives at the shrine, the people walk around the precincts three times. Then the people in the parade as well as the spectators rush upon the horses and compete with one another to snatch the decorations, which are supposed to be ears of rice and are believed to have the power to get rid of evils and keep insects away. These decorations are then placed in the footpaths between the rice fields or at the entrances of houses.
This festival was designated as the town’s intangible cultural property in 1993 and was introduced at the closing ceremony in Nagano winter Olympic Games in 1998.
“Meno Beach” is another name for Motochi Beach, which is located in Kafuka-mura, Rebun-cho on Rebun Island in Hokkaido. As rude ores of agate are washed ashore, it is called Meno (agate) Beach. The beach is across the island from the village of Kafuka, the main settlement on the east coast, but there are also a lot of houses standing side by side near Meno Beach. As there is a bed rock of agate offshore, a large ore of agate is sometimes found when the sea is rough. Along the beach rises a huge rock with a height of 50 m. It is called Jizo Rock because it looks like a Jizo joining his hands in prayer. As Jizo Rock is said to have a power to bring good fortune in study and marriage, a lot of people come to worship it and leave money in the chap of the rock.
Aoshima Shrine is located on Aoshima Island (Miyazaki City, Miyazaki Prefecture), a small island with a circumference of only 1.5 km. The island is one of the representative scenic spots in the prefecture. Surrounded with endless water and sky, Aoshima Island is the treasure trove of sub-tropical plants. As the island had been off limit to the general public and protected as a holy place since the ancient times, natural features including plants and rocks remain intact on the island. The wavy rocks that surround the island are designated as a national Special Natural Monument and the communities of sub-tropical plants are as a national Natural Monument.
Aoshima Shrine is said to have been founded 1,200 years ago. The enshrined deity is Hikohohodemi no Mikoto, popularly known as Yamasachihiko of Japanese myth “Umisachihiko, Yamasachihiko.” Hoderi no Mikoto (Umisachihiko) is enshrined at Ushiodake Shrine in Kitago-cho. Aoshima Shrine is believed to have divine power to bring luck of marriage, safe delivery, safe navigation and traffic safety.