Ancient harvest rituals performed at Sumiyoshi Taisha shrine

Ancient harvest rituals performed at Sumiyoshi Taisha shrine
Women replant rice seedlings during a taue ritual on June 14, 2006.

The Japanese lifestyle and rice cultivation are deeply tied to one another. Of particular significance is the process known as taue, in which rice seedlings grown in a nursery are replanted in paddy fields.

Although events associated with rice planting can be found all over the country, the festival at the Sumiyoshi Taisha shrine is unique for its faithful reproduction of ancient rituals in grand ceremonial style.

First, the paddies are tilled by oxen - a scene you rarely come across today in large cities.

The main attractions of the rituals are spectacular dance performances and songs.

Dancing is believed to enhance the vitality of the rice.

People living in the remote past believed that powerful spirits lived inside the rice seedlings that were to be replanted in Mother Earth.

Outside the paddy fields where the women sing as they replant the seedlings, all kinds of performances are given.

In addition to a dance performed by women wearing kasa (woven straw hats) adorned with flowers, there is a procession of samurai warriors clad in full armour.

The liveliest performance of all is the Sumiyoshi Odori by 150 young girls.

It is hoped that the prayers of the people participating in the festival will be answered in the form of fine rice crops in the autumn, and once the rice has been harvested, offerings of rice are made to the shrine deity in October.

On Nov. 23, a ceremony is held to express gratitude for the bountiful crop.

(Information from the Japan National Tourism Organisation website: http://www.jnto.go.jp/)

Otaue Rice Planting Festival

Place: Sumiyoshi Taisha shrine in Osaka

Date: June 14

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