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.
The Tiger Dance performed on April 29 every year in old Nakaniida Town (present Kami Town) in Miyagi Prefecture is a traditional fire prevention event. It is designated as a prefecture’s folk cultural property.
Old Nakaniida Town had suffered fires from early spring through early summer, when strong winds blew through the town. To pray for fire prevention, the Osaki clan, who ruled in this area about 600 years ago, ordered the firefighters of the town to dedicate a tiger dances at the First Horse Day Festival of Inari Myojin Shrine. Following an old saying, “Clouds bow down to a dragon and winds to a tiger,” the lord intended to use the tiger's influence to stop the winds and protect the town from fire. The tiger dancers and the festival floats paraded through the town to enhance the awareness of fire prevention among townspeople as well as to promote business prosperity of the shops.
Today, several festival floats make their way through the streets followed by 3 to 6 young boys dressed in tiger costumes. The boys in tiger costumes dance on roofs of merchants’ houses to the feverish music of Japanese flutes and drums.
Kamakura is a Lunar New Year festival held sometime in January or February in Akita prefecture. Kamakura is a kind of small igloo made from compacted snow with a small opening and a larger space inside. This festival is from the Tohoku region, but its origins are unclear.
The contents of the festival differ according to region. In Rokugo, Akita, a 'blue-bamboo battle' is held. On the other hand, in Yokote, children make an altar inside the kakamura as a dedication to a god of water inside, while adults visit to pay money to the god and are served sweet sake and rice cakes.
'Bamboo battle' means driving birds away and praying for bumper crops. The dedications to the water god are also a way to pray for bumper crops.
The kamakura igloos have spread all over Japan as an attractive winter display loved by both children and adults.
Kariya Mando Festival is a historical festival held in Kariya, Aichi Prefecture. It is designated as an important cultural asset of the prefecture.
Kariya Mando Festival has a history of 200 years. When vicious hunger attacked the people, the Kariya Castle lord wished for rain: rain followed and saved the people. Therefore the festival is also called the 'rain-making ritual'.
'Mando' is a picture of a warrior in armor. Mando is also like a large lantern 5m long and 2m wide. The mando is made of wood and washi paper. The mando is carried by the townspeople. At night the lantern is lit and the warrior depicted on the lantern is iluminated to create an imaginary world.
Kariya Mando Festival is held annually on the last Saturday and Sunday of July.
Hitokotonushi Shrine is located on Mt Katsuragi in Gose, Nara Prefecture. The real name of the shrine is Katsuragi Niimasu Hitokotonushi Shrine. The god Hitokotonushi is enshrined here.
There is a legend that when an emperor climbed Mt Katsuragi, Hitokotonushi appeared and preached to the emperor. The emperor then offered items such as weapons and clothing to the god. The local people call the god Hitokoto-san because it is believed that the god can grant their wishes.
Within the shrine precincts stands a large gingko tree called Nyu-Gingko, which is some 1200 years old. There is a legend that this gingko brings good luck to children. It is also said it can improve a woman's milk.
Tarobo Shrine (Aga Shrine) is probably some 1400 years old. Praying at the shrine is believed to bring good luck, protection from ill fortune and business prosperity.
The main deity at Tarobo Shrine is 'Masaka-Akatsukachi-Hayahiameno-Oshi-Homimi-No-Mikoto'. Around the main building, there are peculiar rocks called 'iwaza'. There is also a husband-and-wife rock pair. There used to be a single standing rock, but legend has it that it was smote in two by a deity. It is said that any liar who tries to pass through the gap in the two rocks will become wedged.
From the observation tower, one can see beautiful natural scenery.
Gyoku-ho-dorin, the 15th resident priest of Toko Temple (which has a history of 612 years), asked Yoshino Kakunojo, a Hide stone craftsman, to sculpt 521 statues of rakan. Starting from 1863, it took him 19 years to complete.
The sculpting of the rakan was to gain merit for the local people. Usually rakan do not appear to have human face, but these statues are carved to represent four different emotions, which make them peculiar. Also at this site behind the main building is a bussokuseki (a carved stone foot) called 16 Rakan. It is modeled on a similar one at Todaiji Temple in Nara. The size of this rare bussokuseki is about 48.5cm.
The rakan temple, standing in the harsh rocky mountains, was established in 645 by an Indian monk. Many visitors come here to pray for safety and good work.
Within the cave are over 3777 statues, of which the 500 rakan in the Murodo are the most famous. Standing in the entrance is a statue of the Zenkai monk, which contains his relics.
The custom of 'kadomatsu' door decoration has been popular all over Japan since olden times.
Kadomatsu are placed in front of houses to welcome the New Year deity, purify the entrance and drive demons and evil spirits out. Originally, they were made from evergreen woods such as pine, cedar, beech and sakaki. But the prevalence of the use of pine has led to their naming as 'kadomatsu' ('gate pine').
'Pine lasts for 1000 years and bamboo for 10,000 years' is an old Japanese proverb. Pine and bamboo are popular materials for kadomatsu because people wish that Yorishiro, the place in which the deity lives, will last forever.
According to custom, kadomatsu should not be set up on 31st December. This is because it is not faithful to have only one day before welcoming the deity on New Year's Day. Moreover, the 29th should also be avoided because 'nine matsu' is the same pronunciation as 'wait for pain'. Usually, kadomatsu are set up by the 28th.