The Katsuragi-mitoshi Shrine is located in Gose City, Nara, and it honors Mount Mitoshi, a beautiful mountain located right behind it. Its deity is known to govern harvests and guard rice grown in the alluvial fan at the foot of Mount Kongou.
The deity Mitoshi was said to have been first named at the Toshigoi Festival, which is held in the Imperial Court in February, to pray for rich harvests.
Katsuragi-mitoshi Shrine was one of the shrines where the Kamo family held religious rituals for generations. There are three such shrines in Gose: Takakamo Shrine, also known as Kamigamosha (Upper Kamo Shrine), Kamotsubajin Shrine, also known as Shimogamosha (Downtown Kamo Shrine) and Katsuragi-mitoshi Shrine, also called Nakagamosha (Middle Kamo Shrine), or Nakagamo-san - affectionately.
The current main building is painted vermillion and it was transferred from the Kasuga Taish Shrine.
During the first three days of the New Year, to invoke good health, visitors to the shrine receive mochi rice cakes called “otoshidama” which have been blessed by the deity Mitoshi.
The current New Year’s customs of presenting mochi rice cakes to a household shrine and giving “otoshidama” (now, with small amount of cash inside) to children are said to be based on rituals from the Katsuragi-mitoshi Shrine.
Furyumen is a mask looking like a demon which a kakeuchi (dancer) wears in “Men Buryu (masked dance)” practiced in Kashima City, Saga Pref. This dance is designated as an important intangible folk cultural asset of the prefecture. “Men Buryu” dance is a kind of ritual performing art that is dedicated to pray for abundant harvest and rainfall. The dancer, wearing Furyumen over the face and Shaguma (a wig of long horse hair usually made of wool or hemp) on the head and dangling a small drum from the neck, dance fiercely to the sounds of Japanese flutes, drums, and gongs. The dancers, bravely raising their arms and legs, look really gallant. There are two kinds of Furyumen masks; a male mask and a female mask. A male mask has large eyes, firmly pursed lips, vertical wrinkles on the forehead, and a pair of long horns on the head. A male mask, on the contrary, has a wide opened mouth with a tongue reached out, slant eyes, and short horns. These horrible looking Furyumen masks are made out of camphor trees, paulownia, Japanese cypress, or a local species of Nogomi cedar, which are carefully selected by a mask carver. The mask carver then uses a traditional chisel and carves the wood with special attention to details.
“Ohitaki Festival” is held at Yutoku Inari Shrine in Kashima City, Saga Pref. In the ancient times it was held on November 8 in the Lunar Calendar or the day of the Niiname-sai (ancient rice harvest festival), but presently it is held on December 8 every year. A large bonfire is burned to pray for rich harvest and safety of families in the coming year and thank gods, who are going back to the mountains in winter after having guarded the local farmers from spring through autumn. It is said that if you warm yourself at the fire, your diseases will be cured and the transgressions you have unconsciously committed will be absolved and you will be purified. The festival starts at the sunset and continued till night. After the shrine priest finishes reciting Norito (prayers), the pure fire in front of the enshrined deity is transferred to a torch. Then the fire on the torch is transferred to a pile of Ofuda (talismans), which is called “Oyama (divine pile)”. The divine fire that flames up furiously gives a solemn impression. It is so vigorous that the visitors filling the precinct all shout with pleasure.
Once upon a time, in the mountain of Kirin at confluence of the Agano River and the Tokonami River, there used to live a lot of foxes and kitsunebi (mysterious fireballs) were seen every night. Because the kitunebi looked like a line of paper lanterns used for a wedding parade, the people in this area began to call the fireballs “kitsune no yomeiri.” In the town of Tsugawa, reproducing this local legend, the annual event of “Tsugawa kitsune no yomeiri Parade” is held on May 3. The couple who will get married soon take the parts of the groom and the bride and the wedding parade goes around the town. The procession starting at Sumiyoshi Shrine, crossing the Agano River and heading for the top of Mt. Kirin creates fantastic atmosphere. The parade has been held since the old times when people believed that they could gather a rich harvest in the year in which a lot of kitsunebi could be seen (namely the year when they could see the parade).