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
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.
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。
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.
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.”
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. Continue reading
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
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
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