NIPPON Kichi - 日本吉

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どんと祭裸参り Donto-sai-hadaka-mairi Naked Parade of Donto Festival

Jp En

The Naked Parade of Donto Festival is an event held in various shrines in Miyagi Prefecture.

The Donto Festival is held in the lunar new year, around January 14th, at five shrines: Tenjin Shrine, Shinmei Shrine, Hachiman Shrine, Konpira Shrine, and Aosa Shrine.

During the festival, pine decorations, 'shimenawa' ropes for the New Year, and 'koshinpus' are dedicated to the shrine then burnt in holy fire. These dedications are prayers for prosperity and good health.

In the Naked Parade, 100 young people wearing white 'sarashi' loincloths and 'suteteko' long drawers parade through the town holding 'tori-oi' staffs and calling 'Ya, hoi hoi hoi' on their way to the shrine.

The origins of this Naked Parade are uncertain, but records from 250 years ago mention this event. It is believed that sake brewers started this parade as a prayer for safe brewing and for success in brewing high-quality sake.

The Donto Naked festival is a Shinto ritual carried out in a traditional manner by sake brewers.
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おけら詣り Okera-mairi Okera-Mairi (New Year Visit to Okera)

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Okera-mairi is an annual event to celebrate the New Year at Yasaka Shrine in Kyoto. It begins on New Year's Eve and ends on the morning of New Year's Day.

The practise of Okera-mairi comes from the belief that, by bringing the holy fire of Yasaka home in the New Year and cooking a 'zoni' (vegetable soup with rice cakes in it) from that fire, one will have perfect health for the next year.

'Okera' is an asteraceous perennial, and its root was traditionally used as a gastrointestinal medicine in Chinese traditional medicine. It was also used as a charm to ward off evil spirits by feeding it into the flames. These beliefs and practices turned out to become today's Okera-mairi.

After the ceremony of the watch night on New Year's Eve, the holy fire is divided into five Okera lanterns by the hands of the Shinto priest. Each lantern comes with an 'Okera-gi', a piece of wood with a wish written on it. People bring the holy fire with the wishes back home by lighting a rope of twisted-bamboo.

The sight of the visitors returning home from Yasaka Shrine, spinning their rope to keep the fire alive is also a specialty of the Okera-mairi. Such a tradition today let's us see the continuation of ancient Japanese beliefs in the power of fire.
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