Culture

New Year’s Festivals

Japanese new year’s holiday is pretty much equivalent to Christmas holiday in the West. Like in the West, it is a special time of year in which family members reunite. In Kimotsuki we have some festivals to commemorate the beginning of the year. Most of these festivals involve bonfires that are believed to ward off evil spirits.

One such festival, probably the most spectacular, is Doya-doya-saa in Uchinoura, which is actually the fusion of two separate events, Nana-kusa (Festival of Seven Herbs) and Onibitaki (demon-warding bonfire).On the beach, seven-year-old children in the community dress up in kimono for the occasion and go through a shinto ceremony, in which the priest prays for their healthy upbringing and protection from evil spirits.

At the same site on the beach, they create a big hole in the sand with a tall bamboo pole standing in the center. Attached to the bamboo pole are twelve ropes representing the months of the year. Local residents throw their new year’s paper and bamboo decorations into the hole to be burned during the ceremony. While the fire is burning, both the participants and spectators of the ceremony break up into teams, gathering at the rope that represents their birth month. After the fire dies down, they engage in a twelve-way tug-of-war. Whichever team pulls the bamboo pole down onto their side is said to have the luckiest year.