The Otaue Shinji Festival celebrates and prays for a healthy harvest of rice. In addition, it is one of Kansai’s most popular and historic events and is held every year on June 14th. The festival is part of the Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property of Japan.
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What is the Otaue Shinji?
The festival starts off with the rice paddies being tilled by wooden plows. Oxen pull these plows, wearing decorative clothing and religious symbols. The participants dress in white gown-like clothing along with yellow or red stripes. These participant farmers then take part in a special purification ritual where the rice seedlings are purified. This dispels any diseases or evil spirits in the rice seedling.
Next, the priests present the special rice seedlings that they have grown in their own establishment. On the centre stage, the priests dressing in golden robes are accompanied by women dressing in stunning gold and green outfit, symbolizing a healthy harvested crop. These women hand the seedlings over to the participant farmers.
Finally, a respectful bow ends this part of the ceremony. Finally, the participants plant these seedlings in the rice field. Alongside this, traditional dances and ancient Shinto Rituals take place on the centre stage and outskirts of the rice paddy. Furthermore, a beautifully dressed woman, similar to that of a geisha, elegantly dances on the centre stage to the sound of traditional Japanese instruments, including shamisen and taiko drums. After, Kagurame dancers perform Yaotomemai” (“a dance by eight maidens”). Once the rice planting has finished, a group of dancers celebrate the successful planting and wish for a healthy harvest. This is known as the “Sumiyoshi Dance” performed by 150 girls from the local elementary and junior high schools. They believe dancing and music will enhance the growth of the rice. The Japanese say that powerful spirits reside in the rice seedlings and the dancing entertains the spirits so they grow strong and healthy providing a good harvest. In addition, another highlight of the festival is the procession of samurai warriors decked out in full samurai armor.
History of Otaue Shinji Festival
The Otaue Shinto Service started by Empress Consort Jingū, a Japanese empress who ruled beginning in the year 201. She came into power after the sudden death of her husband. The Empress sent troops to the Korean Peninsula while she was pregnant with the late Emporer’s baby. When she returned to Japan safely from the Korean Peninsula, she worshiped the gods who protected the ship at several shrines. One of them is Sumiyoshi Taisha, which enshrines the god of the sea and is said to be beneficial for safte travels across the sea. When the god was enshrined at Sumiyoshi Taisha, “Mita” was set up to make rice for offering to this god. The festival began to pray for a healthy harvest for this god.
Sumiyoshi Taisha Temple
The festival takes place at Sumiyoshi Taisha Temple. It is one of Japan’s oldest shrines, founded in the 3rd century. Sumiyoshi shrines enshrine the kami (Shinto gods) who protect travellers, fishermen and sailors at sea. It is made of many different halls and small buildings. There are four main halls, three of which, face west (unusual to the common south facing temples in Japan). Leading to the entrance of the main shrine grounds is Sorihashi Bridge. The beautiful red arched bridge reflects in the glistening pond below.
Sumiyoshi Taisha is located in southern Osaka, a few minutes from Sumiyoshi Taisha Station on the Nankai Main Line. From Nankai Namba Station, the one way ride costs 210 yen. Using this takes just less than ten minutes, however be careful not to use the rapid trains as they do not stop at Sumiyoshi Taisha station. The festival is free to enter, however if you want a close view, you can pay 1,000 yen for a seat in the tent.
Address: 2-9-89 Sumiyoshi, Sumiyoshi-ku, Osaka 558-0045
The Otaue Shinji Festival is one of Osaka’s most famous festivals for it’s history and tradition. Therefore, it’s an event that I highly recommend visiting if you have the chance. The mix of stunning clothing, elegant dancing, and historic traditions is truly unmissable. Furthermore, the Sumiyoshi Taisha grounds are fantastic to roam around!