Every year on the 31st of December before the new year comes to pass, gods by the name of Toshidon visit young children to praise their good points and to remove their bad points. At the end of such an encounter the children must make a promise to be good.
Shiraito’s Kanmisogi is a traditional event extending back for about 400 years, and has been passed down for generations as the signature winter event of Itoshima (formerly Maebaru) City. The festival to pray for abundant crops starts at midnight on December 18 every year.
After about 100 men in loincloths receive purification in a ceremony on the grounds of Kumano Shrine, they run about 200 meters (656 feet) to the “Misogiba (place to get purified)” in the Nagano River, lead by three people who carry a tub of votive rice. While the rice in the tub is washed in the headwaters, the men submerge themselves in the cold river up to their waist and vigorously splash each other with water to get purified. After the rice is washed, they go back to the shrine grounds and cook it in a pot outside. Some of the rice is shaped into a tall, thin heap, dedicated to the god of the shrine, and prayed over. It is said that the lean of the rice heap decides the fate of the harvest.
Every year on the Sunday closest to December 8, women dawn blindfolds and the mask of one of the Seven Shinto Gods of Good Fortune to take part in a devotional sumo wrestling match at Masue Goro Inari Shrine’s Fuigo Festival. This unique event in which women wearing white clothes stand on their knees, fumble for their opponent, and try to push her down has continually been held since just after World War Ⅱ.
It is said that the style of wrestling blind is a comparison to the difficulty of a life in which the future is uncertain. The “moves” employed by the wrestlers fumbling intently for an opponent they can’t see, and the changes the facial expressions of the masks take on with these moves draw laugher from the audience, who in turn get enormously fired up, cheering and clapping for the wrestlers!
In the old calendar this festival would be held on the 8th of November, but on modern calendars this festival is held on the 8th of December. In the spring a festival is held to bring the gods down from the mountains to protect the crops over the summer. After a good harvest in autumn, this festival is held in thanks of these gods who then return to their mountains.
The Yanagisaka Wax Tree Festival takes place around the wax tree area in Toyoda of Kurume City between the middle and end of November.
Planted by the Kurume Clan about 250 years ago, the wax trees were utilized to obtain wax for lighting. The sight of the autumn leaves on the 200 wax trees coloring the approximately one kilometer (half-mile) long street (which was selected one of Japan’s Top 100 Boulevards of Trees) that they line is spectacular! The street is lined with open-air stalls selling local agricultural products such as vegetables and fruits as well as specialties like folk crafts, and closed to vehicles on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays during the festival. In addition to the wax trees, the maple leaves at Eishoji Temple are also beautiful. Visitors will see the temple (one of Japan’s Three Major Temples for Medicine and Healing) immediately upon entering the Mt. Keshikeshi hiking trail that lies at the end of the wax tree avenue.
An exotic port town, Mojiko Retro District is decorated with fantastic illuminations in December. About 300,000 light bulbs are lite up on 100 trees, and retro buildings such as the Former Osaka Shosen Mercantile Steamship Co. Building and the Former Moji Mitsui Club Building look fantastic. Don’t miss the “Mojiko Retro Night Fantasy” light show by a famous illumination designer!
Lights, illumination and christmas trees are set up all over Shimanose Park. Approximately 300,000 different lights will be set up and at the Kira Kira Party you can have a toast with over 5000 people. Other festivities include dancing and performances, as well as candle services.