Mon, Jun
24

Izawanomiya Otaue Rice Festival

Free
Mie

The Izawanomiya Otaue Festival takes place on June 24 each year at Izawanomiya (Izawa Shrine) — one of the 123 Shintō shrines that makes up the giant Ise Grand Shrine complex in Mie Prefecture.

What happens?

The event is an officially recognized intangible cultural asset and one of three major otaue festivals held in Japan each year. Otaue means rice-planting and the sowing of the rice plants is one of the Shintō rituals performed in order to ensure a good harvest.

If you’re struggling with the name, you could use the nickname that the locals use for it — “Omita”.

What else happens?

Aside from the ritual planting, a large blue bamboo pole is put at the bottom of the muddy field. Teams of men in fundoshi (loin cloths) scramble through the mud to grab the pole and carry it off. It’s believed that the successful pole grabbers will be provided with safety while at sea.

The mythology of the festival involves an ancient visit by seven sharks which swam up the Nogawa (No River) to visit the shrine. The sharks are purported to visit even now, so that local fishermen suspend their fishing — presumably so that the sharks aren’t accidentally caught. An added bonus is that they get to scramble through the mud after the talismanic bamboo pole.

Organizers may cancel events, alter schedules, or change admission requirements without notice. Always check official sites before heading to an event.

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