Ogres dance, singing “Taay ho hey, tay ho hey.” This is the world of gods.

Since ancient times, Japanese people have always expressed their gratitude and awe to nature and their ancestors. Japanese festivals are rituals to show thanks to both for life and health. In Japan, over 600,000 festivals are held throughout the year; half of them are related to traditional manners and customs, and the other half are festivals held for more modern events. Japan has an overwhelming number of festivals rich in content.

The Furikusa-Kobayashi area of Toei Town in Kitashitara district, Aichi Prefecture is a small community of about 20 houses. The Hanamatsuri, held throughout this area from autumn to winter, is a festival to wish for rejuvenation of the soul. The festival has about 600 years of history.

Winter is known as the time when “the weakened soul gathers its power”. On the day of the Hanamatsuri, “Sakaki-Oni” (Sakaki Ogres) come from Tsuki Shrine atop the mountain down to the village, alongside many other “Oni” (ogres), who also come out to the festival. Just like the “Hanadayu” who performs the festival rituals, the roles of Sakaki-Oni, Yamami-Oni and Mokichi-Oni are passed down from generation to generation. The Sakaki-Oni furiously stomp the ground to calm the spirits residing beneath their feet. If any people present are ill, the ogres make them crouch down on all fours and stomp on their backs. This is a spell to drive the evil spirits out of the body.

The “Zazechi” decoration on the ceiling of the “Maido” (dancing area) is a sign that divine spirits are drawn towards, and is also a device to assist in the “reincarnation of life”.
A scene from “Yubayashi”. You will experience a powerful aspiration for a bountiful harvest, a sense of accomplishment after dancing all day, and a feeling of unity with the cheering audience.

“Hanayado”, the venue of the festival, has a holy “Maido” (place to dance) with an earthenware cooking pot set in the center. All kinds of dancing continue from morning until night around the cooking pot. Yubayashi, where hot water from the cooking pot is sprinkled onto everyone, is held at the end to wish for good health. The audience also dances together, transforming Hanayado into the world of “Shinjinwago” (the fusion of gods and man). The chant of “Taaay ho hey, tay ho hey”, which is said to be the imitation of taiko drums and flutes, never ends. Why not join in and feel the origins of Japan? Hanamatsuri is filled with the kindness of people who live and support one other in a harsh environment.

Written by: Hideo Nigata(NPO JAPAN MATSURI NETWORK Vice Chairman)

Hanamatsuri (Furikusa-Kobayashi area)

Dates: The second Saturday of November every year (surrounding areas have the Hanamatsuri around this time)

Place: Furikusa-Kobayashi, Toei Town, Kitashitara-gun, Aichi Prefecture

Directions: Take the Toei Line local bus headed for “Hongo” from Toei Station on the JR Iida Line, change buses to the Toyone Toei Line, get off at “Kobayashi”, and walk for about 15 min. From Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya, take the Shinkansen to Toyohashi Station. Take the JR Iida Line from Toyohashi Station and you will get to Toei Station in about 1 hour and a half.