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.
Otaue Dance Festival takes place on April 29th annually at Okudari Minamikata Shrine in Kinpo-cho, Minami Satsuma City, Kagoshima Prefecture. The festival, a performing art particular to this region, has long been performed to pray for rich harvests for over 400 years.
Around 150 local men gather from the seventh and the eight divisions of Kinpo Town and perform as dancers. Their costumes, hachimaki headbands and style of dance vary slightly from division to division.
Starting at Okudari Minamikata Shrine, the procession of dancers consisting of various styles of dance such as Kama (Sickle) Dance, Naginata (Pole sword) Dance, Bou (Pole) Dance and Kinzan Dance parade through the town.
Senior residents sing traditional songs which have been passed down for years by word of mouth. With their songs and beats from banging poles on the ground by dancers in red sash, performers demonstrate strong and powerful dances, which enchant spectators and they enjoy the seasonal dance until dusk. The festival used to continue well into the night in the past.
Otaue Dace is a well preserved tradition and continues to captivate people in the region.
Waterfall purification is performed on January 15 every year at Kozo Fudo Sui Shrine in Ichihasama Nagasaki in Kurihara City, Miyagi Prefecture. The men who have reached their Yaku-doshi (the unlucky ages) and who have attained adulthood participate in the purification.
At around 7:00 in the evening, the men wearing loincloths, straw sandals and headbands march into the precinct of the shrine, carrying the Mikoshi made of straw rice bags. After they offer a prayer for their safety during the purification ritual, they run to the Kozo-Fudo Waterfall and jump into the basin with renewed vigor.
Although the air temperature around the waterfall is about 8 degrees below zero, they stand under the waterfall with a height of 10 m and then soak in the cold water. Their skin turn crimson in no time but they continue offering a prayer for family safety, good health, expelling bad luck, a rich harvest or success in entrance examinations.
When they come out of water, they return to the shrine to report that the purification is over without any accident. Greeted by spectators’ cheers and applause, they take a rest around a bonfire and drink hot Amazake (sweet sake-wine). The ritual has received a favorable comment from the participants that they can feel refreshed when their body and soul are purified.
Shitennou-ji Temple, located in Tennouji-ku, Osaka City, Osaka, is the head temple of Wa Shuu or Japanese Buddhist sect. The principal image of Buddha is Guse Kanzeon Bosatsu. The temple is a part of Kansai Kannon Pilgrimage, the 25th temple of Settsukoku Pilgrimage and the first temple of Shoutoku Taishi Reiseki Temples.
Shitennou-ji is an ancient temple built by Shoutoku Taishi on the first year of Emperoro Suiko era (593).
Doya-doya Festival is said to date back to 827 when Shushoue, a New Year’s memorial service, first took place, and is counted as one of the Big Three Strange Festivals in Japan.
Shushoue, which starts on New Year’s Day, is dedicated to good luck for the year and to pray for world peace and rich harvests. Doya-doya Festival takes place on January 14th, the final day of Shushoue.
The festival is a majestic soul-stirring event in which young men who are divided into white and red groups and wearing only headbands and clad in loincloth strive to grab an amulet called gohei. The name, Doya-doya, came from a Japanese expression of a big crowd gathering noisily.
Even now Shitennou-ji Doya-doya is still a very well attended thriving traditional religious festival.
Nakayama Shrine in Kadogawa Town, Miyazaki Prefecture, is said to have been founded in 857, when the deity at Izumo Taisha Shrine was transferred to this shrine.
Onamuchi no Mikoto and three other deities are enshrined. Onamuchi no Mikoto is another name for Okuninushi no Mikoto. As Okuninushi no Mikoto is known as the god of nation-building, farming, business and medicine as well as love stories with many princesses, the shrine was famous for the divine power of marriage tie. It was believed that if a young man and a woman passed each other in the front approach of the shrine, they would fall in love with each other.
As there is a song about the shrine, which goes, “Nakayama-san is a good god because if you don’t have any kimono, you can visit him naked, and if you don’t have any sandals, you can visit him with bare feet,” it is said that, in the ancient times, men were allowed to visit the shrine even only in loincloth, and women in koshimaki (waist wrap).
The grand festival held on January 7 every year is famous as a naked festival, in which both toshi-otoko (men whose zodiacal sign corresponds to the year's sign) and men of Yaku-doshi (the unlucky age) wearing only white loincloth, white tabi (Japanese socks) and white headbands run up the stone steps to the precinct, shouting loud encouragement. In the precinct, they pour cold water onto the head and all over the body to purify themselves and pray for the safety and a good health of their family.
The Miyabukuro Masutori-mai dance is a folk performing art handed down in Furukawa Omiya in Osaki City, Miyagi Prefecture. The dance has been performed in many places in the prefecture since the ancient times as the dance called Hayashi-mai performed at celebratory occasions, in which dancers dance with auspicious compliments. It was introduced to this area from the southern part of the prefecture in 1942 and has been dedicated to the god at Miyabukuro Shikagamo Shrine in September every year to pray and thank for a rich harvest.
The dancers wearing hanten (kimono-styled jacket), momohiki (pants), tasuki (a cord to tuck up sleeves), hachimaki (hair band) and red and white tabi (Japanese socks) dance to the song and the sounds of Japanese drums and gongs with exaggerated actions of measuring rice with a masu (rice-measuring box) in their hands. “Jester,” who is a personified rice-field god, joins the dance in the middle of the performance, and everyone on the stage prays for a rich harvest and throws red and white rice cake to the audience in the finale.
Taue Odori (the rice planting dance) handed down in the Shinjo area in Kesennuma City, Miyagi Prefecture, is a folk performing art that is designated as a prefecture’s intangible folk cultural property.
It is said that this dance dates back to the Tenpo era (1830-1843), when the area was attacked by a great famine. The villagers dedicated the dance to Taira Hachiman Shrine in hope for a good harvest. The dance performed by the Edo-period farmers who were in an abyss of despair tells the modern people the importance of overcoming difficulty with a light-hearted manner.
In the old times, the dance was performed on Koshogatsu (little New Year), which refers to the three-day period in the middle of January that includes the 15th day. Today, they are performed at various festivals and on New Year’s Day on the lunar calendar, when the dancing team visit every house in the area and perform it.
The dance is performed by two “Yajuro” dancers and five “Yassaka” dancers. The Yajuro dancers wearing naga-eboshi caps (long cloth caps) and jinbaori jackets gives the words of prologue, shaking the bamboo stick with gold rings called “Shurosuri.” After that, the Yassaka dancers wearing hachimaki hair bands, long jackets and apron-like cloth with small bells on it join the dance and jump around, chanting “Yando Ya Hi!” and beating handy drums altogether.
Kamo Grand Festival dates back over 940 years and originates around the Heian period. The festival, an important intangible cultural asset of Okayama prefecture, takes place on the third Sunday of every October.
During the festival, parades consisting of portable shrines and taiko drums start from eight different shrines around the town and come together at the head shrine at Kamo Ichiba where the ancient religious rituals occur.
To the sounds of flutes and drums, exciting events take place in the precinct of the shrine which is possessed by the festive mood. There are demonstrations of “Tachifuri” in which performers wearing the tamadasuki sash and hachimaki headband wield a Naginata sword and “Boutsukai” in which performers wearing Tengu goblin masks and demon masks in bright colored dresses engage in mock battle.
The climax of the festival is “Gojinkou”. With red banners held aloft lining the route, and amid the noise of flutes and drums, the performers unite with a loud shout of “whoh”, raising the portable shrines high above their heads. This is the moment when performers and audience unite.
Kamo Festival is a captivating festival evoking an ancient painted scroll from the Heian era.