Do you remember last February, when I went to a random demon festival and got myself covered in white flour? Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Certainly doesn’t sound like something you would want to do twice, does it? Well… a-hem… I went back for more today.
Toyohashi’s “Oni Matsuri” (鬼祭り), or “demon festival”, is an annual event which happens on February 10th and 11th. February 11th is also a national holiday: National Foundation Day (建国記念の日, kenkoku kinen-no-hi).
Every year, since the Heian period (794 – 1192), the Oni Matsuri has been celebrated in Toyohashi. The annual festival takes place at Akumi Kanbe Shinmeisha Shrine, whatever the weather!
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.
Towards the end of the fight/dance, some children are paraded into the shrine. They were so gorgeous, but I have no idea what they signify.
The tengu wins the fight, and the red demon runs away. As he runs away, he scatters “tankiri ame” (boiled sweets) and powder (flour) for expelling evil. There are many “guards” (and kids) on hand to help scatter the flour and candy.
This kid was getting ready:
And so were these guys:
While we were waiting for the festivals to get going, I had the pleasure of meeting the black demon.
The black demon’s main role seems to be to pat people on the head, which is supposed to bring them luck. If all this luck works out, it’s going to be a great year for me! 😉
Most of the festival is actually very slow and, to be honest, a little dull. Last year it rained and today it actually snowed in the morning, so it was really cold while we were waiting around at the crowded shrine.
But it was worth the wait. I felt quite excited as the festival picked up pace and finally the fun part began. My only concern this year, having been covered in flour last year, was to make sure my new coat and new camera were both protected when the flour and candy throwing began…
Apparently, if you are showered with the flour, you will not become ill during the summer. The candy is also supposed to have the same effect, so people desperately try to grab as many bags as they can.
I did my best to protect myself from the flour with a plastic mac and a towel, but unfortunately this guy…
…snuck up behind me when I thought I was safe and covered me and my friend (and my camera).
After the main part of the festival we went to my friend’s grandma’s house which is on the festival route.
It was really noisy there, as part of the festivities includes setting off firecrackers in the street.
Then the Oni comes for a rest at the building next to my friend’s grandma’s house.
I also had fun watching some school boys playing “janken” (rock, paper, scissors)…
Finally, after I had already cleaned up once, I was got again by the same guy who got me last year! He didn’t remember but I’m sure it was him.
Japan has many weird and wonderful festivals, and I’ve been to a few of them. I will always have a soft spot for this one though, and I hope that perhaps more visitors to Japan will attend this festival in the future. Toyohashi is not the sort of place that many people would stop off at while on vacation, but it’s close to Nagoya and this festival would make a very fun day-trip if you happened to be in Japan at the right time. Just remember to pick up a plastic mac (and maybe an umbrella) from the convenience store on the way! 😉
As usual, my whole photo collection from today can be viewed on Flickr.
I was very excited when the February Japan Blog Matsuri theme was announced as “Famous Japanese Events” (hosted this month by Reesan over at “loneleeplanet“). While the Oni Matsuri is certainly not world-famous, or even famous throughout Japan, it’s one of the things that Toyohashi is known for, and in my opinion it deserves to be famous! So, I’m very happy to be submitting this post as an entry for the February Japan Blog Matsuri! If you want to know more about the Japan Blog Matsuri, click here. Oh and, by the way, Haikugirl’s Japan will be the proud hosts of the March Japan Blog Matsuri… so watch this space! 😀
This post is also a Show Me Japan entry for this week. Don’t forget to check out the others!