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.
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.
Akiba Shrine Festival dates back over 200 years and is counted as one of the Tosa Tree Greatest Festivals. The festival takes place every February 11th, on New Year’s Day according to the lunar calendar.
The deity of the shrine, Hobosuna-no-mikoto, is worshiped to prevent fire. People in traditional costumes depart from three different areas; Honmura, Kirinokubo and Sawado, and finally come together at the Iwaya Shrine. The parade now consisting of more than 200 people marches toward the Akiba Shrine. The parade makes several stops on the way, performing music and sword dance routines. The portable shrine is also shaken up and down in an exciting display.
The biggest attraction of the festival is an event called “Torike-hineri” in which young men all dressed as fire fighters throw an 8kg, 7m pole with bird feathers on top to their partner over 10m away, who must leap to catch it.
At the end of the festival, the portable shrine has to be returned to the main shrine, however, permission to enter is not easily obtained and carriers have to keep shaking the portable shrine until, after several attempts, they are finally allowed to enter. During this period, street comedians liven up audiences with comical dance routines. The festival is designated as an intangible folklore cultural asset by Kochi prefecture.
The Shishi-mai dance, which was imported from China, spread throughout Japan and has many variations depending on the area.
The shishi (lion) dances to lively music. It is said that there are two kinds of shishi-mai dance: one, unlike its Chinese counterpart, is the 'furyu' shishi-mai, which can only house a single performer instead of a line of men.
In Japan, there are many styles of shishi-mai, with no two styles resembling each other, including several different versions of the 'furyu' and 'kagura' dances.
The head of most shishi is made of wood, but some are made of rice paper or styrofoam. The old Chinese version of the dance originated long ago, while the current version originated in the Qing dynasty to become a competitive sport.
Shishi-mai is performed during every kind of event, including Chinese New Year and the opening ceremonies of new shops. Shishi-mai teams exist in every town.
Kasedori is a fire-prevention festival that takes place in Kaminoyama, Yamagata prefecture. It is believed that the custom began about 350 years ago. In those days, the festival took place first at a shrine on the 13th day of the lunar new year, and then in the town on the 15th.
During the festival, young people parade through the streets. As they pass by, local people pour water from ladels onto the procession and pray for fire prevention and prosperity.
This custom was halted in 1896, but revived in 1959. Today, the youngsters still wear the traditional straw costumes called 'kendan' and parade through town calling out the peculiar sound 'kasedori, kasedori, ka-ka-ka.'
At the time of the festival, Kaminoyama is covered with snow. However, the great energy of the youngsters is warming in the freezing weather.
Hakugin-dou is a small shrine dedicated to the local sea god. At lunar New Year, many people visit it to pray for safe voyages and bountiful catches.
During the 'Itoman Harley', the famous festival in the fishing town of Itoman, the local deity is enshrined.
Hakugin-dou has a famous saying: 'Ijinuijira tehiki, tenuijira ijihiki' ('If your pride gets bigger, hold back your hand. If your hands are to be thrown, hold back your pride.') The name Hakugin ('White Silver') derives from a story that silver coins were collected for debt and buried in a cave. Hakugin-dou has another name, 'Yoriage-mitake'.
The shrine is close to Itoman city center, but 200 years ago, the district was below the sea. The god at Hakugin-dou still provides security for fishing expeditions, which is appropriate for a fishing town such as this.