“Isobe-no-Omita”, a holy rice planting festival

In Japan, where rice is the staple food, it has been a custom since old times to regard rice planting as a holy event and rice planting festivals to wish for a good harvest have been held at shrines all over Japan. “Isobe-no-Omita” is one such festival held in June every year, in Goryoden (a rice field where rice to dedicate to god is grown) of the Izawanomiya Shrine, an associated shrine of the Inner Shrine of Ise in Isobe-cho in Shima City, Mie Prefecture. Its actual origin is not known, but it is said that it started around the end of the Heian Period (794-1192).

Taketori or bamboo snatching
Taketori, the climax of the event

The biggest highlight of this event is “Taketori” held before the rice planting. Around 11 am on the day, men wearing a loincloth snatch from each other a “Gonbauchiwa”, a huge fan attached at the top end of a long bamboo stick, in the muddy rice field filled with water . The scene of the scramble for Gonbauchiwa is very powerful and the excitement surrounds the spectators who come to see it. Isobe-cho is a town facing the Pacific where fishing is a major industry and Taketori has been held to wish for big catches of fish. It is believed that if you bring the bamboo back and decorate it on your boat, it will work as a charm for the safe sailing.

Rice planting
Graceful rice planting (C) Shima-City Tourism Association

After Taketori is over, rice planting finally starts. In the rice planting event, girls called “Saotome” wearing a white gown, a red sash and Sugegasa or sedge hat and young men called “Tachido” wearing an undershirt, long underpants and Sugegasa form a line and plant young rice plant one after another. This graceful rice planting accompanied by the music of flute and drums will make you feel time is passing more slowly you may even feel as if you have been transported back in time to Japan as it was hundreds of years ago.

Isobe-no-Omita

Date: June 24th every year 10:00 am –

Venue: Goryoden of Izawanomiya Shrine (374 Kaminogo, Isobe-cho, Shima City, Mie Prefecture)

Access: 3-minute walk from Kaminogo Station of Kintetsu Shima Line