Tokyobling's Blog

Yotsukaido Mud Festival – Chiba

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on February 5, 2014

It is February and that means the glorious Warabi Hadaka Matsuri, or the Doronko Matsuri, or the Yotsukaido Mud Festival is drawing closer. On the 25th of this month the toughest men of the city of Yotsukaido in Chiba prefecture to the east of Tokyo will dress up in nothing but loincloth and wade into the freezing waters of a muddy rice field to enact a ritual that is to guarantee them good luck for the year and good coming harvest. There are several parts to the festival, chanting in the water, a game of “kibasen” (one man on the shoulder of three others who battle other similar teams) and of course the blessing of the infants! In this ceremony infants not yet one year old are carried into the water and given a symbolic drop of mud on the forehead, applied with a rice stalk from last year’s harvest. I took these photos at last year’s festival that was so cold they had to break the thick ice of the pond before the ritual could start.

The festival involves a lot of mud, so spectators in the first rows will probably get a bit of splatter so if you intend to see it in person I’d recommend leaving your nicest clothes home for the day! You can see my earlier post, with more information, here. The festival takes place in and around the tiny hill top shrine of Warabi Mimusubijinja (和良比皇産霊神社) which is said to date back to 811 A.D. The pond is naturally fertilized which makes it an even more interesting experience if you get too close to the mud!

The Yotsukaido city council festival information page is here.

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Warabi Naked Festival – Chiba

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on February 26, 2013

For hundreds of years now, in the little city of Yotsukaido (四街道市) in Chiba prefecture to the east of Tokyo, every year on February 25th the strongest men of the town has stripped to their loincloths and braved the icy waters of a rice paddy to bring the protection of the Gods to the newborns of the city. It was bitterly cold yesterday and before the ritual could start they had to break the ice with staffs and throw the thick sheets of broken ice up onto the banks of the rice paddy. One after the other the men would wade in with their assigned baby, taking a piece of dried grass and carefully putting a dot of mud from the rice field on the forehead or cheeks of the child. Some babies were screaming, some were sobbing and some seemed totally indifferent to what was going on, a couple of babies were even sleeping! It must have been amazingly cold, as the whole festival took more than a two hours to complete. Between rounds of babies the men would dash up onto the grounds of a nearby shrine to huddle next to a fire before braving the waters again. It took a lot of concentration to make it down into the icy muddy field, some men slipped spectacularly but the babies were always safe and sound! Meanwhile priests and parents would stand to the side enjoying the spectacle! The festival was concluded by a massive mud brawl, but I’ll post those pictures later. The festival is called Waradbi Hadaka Matsuri, or the Warabi Naked Festival (和良比裸祭り). Another name is the Doronko Matsuri (どろんこ祭り). Enjoy!

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