Setsubun 節分

On February 3rd in homes throughout Japan, family members will walk through the rooms of their home throwing beans (mamemaki) in a purifying ritual. While tossing the beans family members will shout  oni wa soto, fuku wa uchi (demons out, good luck in) as if to bring about fortuitous luck in the upcoming year. It is common for one person to

mame (Small)

A bag of beans. While in some parts of Japan the beans used are soybeans, in the Tohoku region peanuts are commonly used. Pictured here is a bag of soybeans.

play the role of the oni (demon) in this ritual. Often the father of the household is relegated to this job. During this period of seasonal change, like others, was believed to have been a time when evil spirits and monsters gathered, and caused plagues and other disasters. Family members will also eat an amount of beans in accordance with their individual ages sometimes adding one. The addition of one bean may be a symbolic assurance of living another year or may reflect kazoedoshi (a traditional method of counting age in which the one year is counted for time in the womb). Beans are eaten so as to ward off evil and increase resistance to illness.



When purchasing beans at a store, a paper mask of an oni (demon) is provided as well.








Article: Folk performance 論文:伝統芸能

An article (in Japanese) examining the traditional folk performances names has been earlier published in the journal of the Folklore Society of Aomori Prefectures.

「中野神楽におけるイエの祭り―三戸郡南郷村中野地区の事例から―」という論文を青森県民俗の会の 『青森県の民俗』 第四号に2004年に載せられました。ここで、改めて紹介します。




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Article: Shrine system 論文:四十八社

An article (in Japanese) examining the one villages shrine system was previously published in Tohoku University’s journal The Bulletin of the Tohoku Culture Research Room.

「島守四十八社にみる地域と信仰―三戸南郷村島守地区の事例から―」という論文を 『東北文化研究室紀要』に載せられました。ここで、改めて紹介します。

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Mid-winter festival procession 真冬の祭り

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Festival goers bear smiles despite the wind and snow.

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Dyad guardians at the crossroads 村を守る夫婦

towada giants

Male and female straw effigies stand guard at the entrance to a rural hamlet (Towada City, Aomori prefecture)


Lift a stone, prove your strength 力石

An older form of entertainment that is now unseen in Japan, was the lifting of heavy stones during a festival. Put simply a test of strength. The rocks come in various sizes, but generally they are all called chikara ishi 力石, literally “strength stones.”

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Dousing the Evil Flame 米川の水かぶり

img_2586On 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. Continue reading


A Final Resting Place 針の安らぎの場


Just recently returned from Kamakura City (Kanagawa prefecture). On February 8th, at the Egaraten Shrine (荏柄天神社), the annual memorial service for needles (針供養 hari kuyo) was held. Continue reading


Dontosai どんと祭 (The Naked Festival)

The Dontosai Festival is held every January 14th. The previous year’s talismans and amulets are ritually burnt. Exposing themselves to the cold, a number of men and women parade to the shrine to receive the blessings of the enshrined deities (photo: Sendai, Miyagi prefecture). Continue reading


Truck Art デコトラ


The truck is king of the road in Japan. And there is a special breed of truck that is both distinctively fearsome, yet elegant: kind of like Las Vegas on wheels. These trucks are called decotora, which is a melded abbreviation of the words “decorated” and “truck”.  Decotora can be seen all throughout Japan though it is said that the original decotora was driven by a trucker from Aomori prefecture. Continue reading


Tanabata 仙台の七夕

According to legend, on the night of the seventh day of the seven month (July) the two stars, Altair (牽牛星 Kengyūsei) and Vega (織女星 Shokujosei) are allowed to cross the Milky Way (天の川 Amanogawa, literally the “river of heaven”). From this once a year cosmological occurrence an annual event has emerged known as Tanabata 七夕 (“night of the seventh”). The Tanabata ritual festival consists mainly of decorating lengths of bamboo with colorful paper decorations on which wishes are written. In doing so, it is hoped that the wishes will come true. Tanabata has come to be associated with Obon お盆 (the summer festival when the spirits of the dead return to the land of the living) because it acts as a purification ritual (禊ぎ misogi) in preparation for greeting the returning spirits of dead ancestors during Obon. The making of decorations and the subsequent celebrating of Tanabata is widespread, although the festival held in Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture is particularly famous drawing large numbers of tourists from all over Japan.