Kumano Hongu Taisha Annual Festival (Taisha: literally means "Grand shrine")
On April 13, the Kumano Hongu Taisha Annual Festival starts with the Yunobori Shinto Ritual (Intangible Cultural Property of Wakayama Prefecture). The ritual begins with a procession of Shinto priests, mountain ascetics blowing conch horns, children in festive costumes on the parents' shoulders, and attendants that winds its way to Yunomine Onsen, Mt. Dainichi and Tsukimigaoka Shrine.
On April 15, there are many Shinto rituals too: Main Hall Festival, Togyo Festival in which a portable shrine and its followers carry the deity over to Ohyunohara, and Saito-Daigoma in which mountain ascetics burn small pieces of wood on the altar to invoke divine help. After them, rice cakes are tossed to worshippers.
We all wish them grow up in good health.
Photos: Okada, a Hongu aficionado in Shingu
Very little boys play a key role in the Kumano Hongu Taisha Annual Festival. During the Yasabaki Shinto ritual, it is said, the deity of Kumano falls upon the children who will serve as the deity' s messengers.
The boys on their fathers' shoulders are not supposed to come down on the ground except for the Yasabaki Shinto ritual (during the ritual they are seated on mats). The fathers, carrying their boys on the shoulders and passing over Mt. Dainichi, are drenched in sweat. And imagine, the boys may start crying or falling asleep. What a sight they are!
The Chinese character "大" (literally means BIG） painted on the boys' forehead is said to indicate wishes that they will grow up big and healthy.
In the Yasabaki Shinto ritual, performed in the later half of the event, the boys are moved 3 times clockwise and 3 times counterclockwise, in 3 rounds, to the musicians' flutes. Strictly speaking, it should be said that they move beating a small drum hanging on the chest. But as you can see, where are the drums? No wonder, most boys do not move around themselves but their fathers make them turn around.