Dousing the Evil Flame 米川の水かぶり

On January 12, 2017, I was witness to the Mizukaburi Festival of Yonekawa (米川の水かぶり) in the City of Tome, Miyagi prefecture. This is an annual festival which is said to be over 800 years old. Men enwrapped in a costume made of straw parade through the town dousing homes and businesses with buckets of water. They are acting as agents of a fire deity enshrined at the local temple. It is believed that this ritual action drives away the evil forces seeking to harm the community by sparking a flame, which in the extreme could be the seed of a conflagration engulfing the many wooden buildings that tightly line the streets (a major historical concern in Japan). Spectators yank on the straw of the costumes hoping to take some strands home, for it is believed to offer protective power, bringing good luck throughout the year.

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