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Oniyo at Daizenji Tamataregu

Play time
7:40

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"Oniyo at Daizenji Tamataregu" is a traditional event that is nationally designated as an important intangible folk cultural property. Oniyo is held on 7th January every year at Daizenji Tamataregu Shrine in Kurume City. It is one of the Japan's three biggest fire festivals, with a history of more than 1600 years. Many people visit this ritual event to see the biggest flaming torches in Japan carried by brave men in loincloths. It is believed that exposure to sparks from the giant torches brings good health.

Place: Daizenji, Kurume City
Date: 7th January
Specified name (nationally designated): Oniyo at Daizenji Tamataregu

Daizenji Tamataregu

Daizenji Tamatareguの画像

Daizenji Tamataregu

Daizenji Tamatareguの画像

Tamataregu Shrine is located in Kurume City, Fukuoka Prefecture.
The gods enshrined here are Tamatare-no-mikoto, Hachiman-okami, and Sumiyoshi-no-okami.
The shrine is said to have been established about 1900 years ago.
Daizenji temple was founded by a monk called Antai in 672. 
As a holy place that contained both a shrine and a temple, Daizenji Tamataregu attracted many worshippers The temple was destroyed in 1869, but the shrine remains.

Giant torches

Giant torchesの画像

Oniyo is held on the final day of the Onie festival that runs from 31st December to 7th January.
It climaxes with a parade of giant flaming torches.
There are six giant torches, each 1 m in diameter, 13 m in length and 1.2 t in weight.
Residents of Daizenji town make the torches on 4th January every year.

Kimenson-shinji, a ritual event

Kimenson-shinji, a ritual eventの画像

The first ritual event on the day is Kimenson-shinji.
The shrine invites members of the Akashi family and Kawahara family to move holy masks from the main shrine to Amitabha hall.
A symbolic scattering of seeds is also part of the ritual.
When the sun sets, young people wearing loincloths gather at the shrine.
They split into torch groups and purify their bodies in a river in front of the shrine.
This is called Shioikaki.
Young people enthusiastically run to and from the main shrine twice carrying small torches.
All the lights are turned off past 9 pm and the giant torches are prepared.
Beginning with the first group, each torch group gathers around their torch.
When all the six groups are ready, the giant torches are lit by a holy flame preserved in the main shrine.

Hokomen-shinji

Hokomen-shinjiの画像

A ritual called Hokomen-shinji is performed under the light of the giant torches.
Red and blue long-nosed goblins drive away evil spirits in a ritual said to be the origin of Oniyo "The ritual consists of three ceremonies: Hokototta, in which people grab the spears held by the goblins" Mentotta, in which people grab the goblin masks
Soranuida, in which the people who wore the masks draw their swords.

Parade of giant torches

Parade of giant torchesの画像

The parade of giant torches starts after Hokomen-shinji.
Hundreds of young people support the intensely burning torches using forked oak poles.
The first group carries their torch around the main shrine once and the other groups go round twice Before the parade, children wearing hemp headgear hit the walls of Amitabha hall.
This incites the demons within to show themselves.
The demons leave the hall and start going around its circumference.
When the demons have finished going around the hall, "Monkuguri" of the first torch starts
"Monkuguri" is a privilege given only to the group carrying the first torch.
They carry the intensely burning giant torch through a narrow gate".
The demons purify themselves in the river secretly and return to the hall.
A ringing bell signals the end of the night's events.
It is believed that exposure to sparks from the giant flaming torches brings good health.
Every year, many people visit the festival to pray for their family's safety, happiness and good fortune.

Map

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