On Saturday night, Shacho (Kazuhiro-san), Okami-san (Yukiko-san) and I went along to the mysterious nearby shrine of Kanii-jinja to take part in their annual harvest festival.
We were also joined by a young couple from Australia whom I thought would be interested in taking part in a very rural and local tradition, rarely seen by tourists.
The festival starts with a procession of torches, carried by members of the local villages and then, after singing a short song, are set up in front of the shrine building. One of the torch carriers then spotted our guests and kindly explained the ritual to them as it unfolded.
Once the Shinto priest had finished his blessing inside the shrine, he made his way over to the iron water cauldron, steaming away in an enclosure of bamboo saplings. Starting with rice, then salt and finally sake, the priest added a handful to each side of the pot before placing a small pot of the mixture inside the shrine.
Finally, he thrust two large, leafy branches into the pot and swung them hard, showering the gathered watchers with hot water. This he did several times, making sure that as many people as possible were splashed. Those of us who were are considered to have good fortune for the rest of the year.
Our guests found the festival fascinating and enjoyed the opportunity to really get “off the beaten path”, meet some local people and experience some unusual countryside traditions.
Wherever you are staying in Japan, I highly recommend asking about any small local festivals happening in the area because they allow you to get up close to the action in a way that you can’t with much larger and famous matsuri.
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