Oni Matsuri (鬼祭り), Toyohashi

Today is National Foundation Day (建国記念の日, kenkoku kinen-no-hi) in Japan.  What does that mean?  It means I had the day off work, that’s what! 😉

So, what’s a girl to do when she gets a bonus day off work?  Well, this girl went to a demon festival…

Every year, since the Heian period (794 – 1192), the Oni Matsuri (鬼祭り), or ‘demon festival’ has been celebrated in Toyohashi.  (I should note at this point that ‘oni’ is also sometimes translated as ‘devil’ or ‘ogre’.) The annual festival takes place at Akumi Kanbe Shinmeisha Shrine on 10th and 11th February. On February 10th the blue/green demon goes around the town.  This demon is called ‘aoi oni’ in Japanese. Confusingly, ‘aoi’ actually means blue, but the demon is green-coloured.  Anyway, 11th is the main day, and on this day the ‘aka oni’, or red demon, comes to the shrine and fights with the ‘tengu’, which is a long-nosed goblin.  The tengu wins, and the red demon runs away. As he runs away, he scatters ‘tankiri ame’ (boiled sweets) and powder (flour) for expelling evil.  Apparently, if you are showered with this powder, you will not become ill during the summer.  This festival also celebrates the coming of Spring, and our happiness for the coming year. During the festival, there were a couple of times when you could be touched on the head by one of the devils (I got the black one and the red one – no idea about the meaning of the black one!) and this is supposed to bring you luck.

At Toyohashi station there was a display about the Oni Matsuri…

Oni Matsuri (鬼祭り)

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Entering Akumi Kanbe Shinmeisha Shrine…

Akumi Kanbe Shinmeisha Shrine, Toyohashi

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Black oni…Black Oni
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Red oni…
Oni

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What’s he doing? He’s getting his flour and candy ready…

Preparing for battle...
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Aka oni and Tengu fight…
Tengu and Oni

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Tengu’s winning…
Tengu and Oni

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Aka oni starts on the crowd…
Oni

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All kinds of floury hell breaks loose as aka oni runs away!
Flour fight!

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It’s every man, woman and child for themselves as everyone tries to catch the lucky candy…
Flour fight!

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I got lucky…
My stash of flour and candy!

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Outside my friend’s grandma’s house where we were warming up, was an oni resting point. To kill the time, people were setting off small fireworks here. They were really noisy and looked pretty dangerous!
Fireworks in the street

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OK… so here’s what happened next…

After the aka oni had rested and was ready to go again, this Japanese guy asks me if he can rub flour in my face when the oni leaves. The conversation was half in English and half in Japanese, and my friend was like “go on!!”, so I thought “what the hell?”… And the guy got two great big handfuls of flour and rubbed them in my face!
Rub it in real good...

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I figured, either he really wants me to be lucky and healthy all year… or he has some weird fantasy about rubbing flour in a foreigner’s face… He seemed like a nice guy though!
Me and the flour man...
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Well, if the above belief about the powder bringing health for the summer is true, I should be fit and healthy for many years to come…

This was certainly one of the most interesting festivals I’ve been to in Japan so far!  It was a shame it was raining, especially as that meant that the flour sort of turned into glue on our clothes and shoes!! The festival itself was a little slow, and the oni/tengu fight/dance seemed to go on a long time. But the flour fight was really fun, and I would go back just for that!

Someone recently wrote an interesting blog about ‘weird festivals’ and kindly linked to my Honen Matsuri post from last March.  This has got me thinking now… what other weird and wonderful festivals are there to be experienced in Japan?  I thought I had heard of a tomato festival, but that seems to be somewhere in Europe. Can any of you readers recommend any more interesting festivals in Japan??

7 thoughts on “Oni Matsuri (鬼祭り), Toyohashi

  1. There’s a tomato festival at West Dean, near Chichester. They also have a chili festival and an apple festival – nowhere near as interesting as yours though!

    Hope the flour does bring you good health
    xxx

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  2. The Tomato (La Tomatina) festival is in Bunyol, Spain, and I’ve heard it’s insane. Almost as bad as the running of the bulls in Pamploma, Spain.

    Seems like almost every country has something unusual. Although Japan seems to have more odd events than almost anywhere else.

    I enjoy reading your blog, this was a very nice entry!

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  3. So cool! I wanted to go but alas, i had work >__< but if you're here in japan next year, then i definitely recommend them. And looks like you're in Aichi 😀 so shouldn't be a problem! ^_^

    I live in Nishio.. like an hour south-east of Nagoya.. not so far from Toyohashi actually… If you enjoyed (is that the right word?) Honen Matsuri (i got to go last year.. pretty crazy ^_^) then we have a festival in Nishio called Tenteko Matsuri (てんてこ 祭) on January 3. It's also an, er, fertility festival… a lot smaller scale than Honen, but still worth seeing ^_^ They tie.. specially-shaped daikon around their waists, and do this shaky dance-thing… ^_^ (Do you go by train? Station is Nishio (西尾) on Meitetsu, but I'm not sure how far of a walk it is from the station…:/)

    http://www.city.nishio.aichi.jp/index.cfm/8,2032,91,408,html

    Also, there's this crazy fire festival in a tiny town called Hazu called the Toba Hi Matsuri (鳥羽火祭). It a short walk from the station, Mikawa Toba (三河鳥羽) on Meitetsu. At this one… they build these huge bonfires, and then two teams of guys (dressed in these festivals costumes that make them look like neko! ^_^) race to pull out a sacred tree from their team's fire. so exciting. they like catch on fire and fall off.. and the fire is falling all around them. so cool.

    http://www.town.hazu.lg.jp/00kanko/himatsuri_e.htm (and this site as English. yay!)

    i just wrote about it on my blog actually, if youre interested… i posted a video of it, too ^_^ http://aredrubberball.blogspot.com/

    so! a couple of other recommendations ^_^

    Gujo Hachiman Odori in Gifu (郡上八幡 おどり)。 Dance the bondori until your can't walk straight ^_^ We went during Obon when they dance all night!

    http://www.gujohachiman.com/kanko/

    And here's some on my list ^_^

    Isshiki Giant Lantern Festival (大提灯まつり)

    http://www.town.isshiki.lg.jp/oochouchin/

    And the feminine alternative to the Honen Matsuri 😮 Oagata Honen Matsuri (大縣神社豊年祭)  (this one is next month!)

    http://inuyama.gr.jp/events/2310
    http://www.geocities.jp/joox_tv2/matsuri/oagata.html

    maybe interesting ^_^ Thanks for posting! keep it coming! 😀

    Ruth

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