Jun 062012

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Rice planting in Japan usually occurs in May, just before rainy season comes. Around that time religious ceremonies for good crops are held in major Japanese shrines. They are commonly referred to as rice planting festivals, otaue matsuri or otauesai.

Taga Taisha Grand Shrine

Taga Taisha close to Hikone city is one of the largest, oldest and historically important Japanese shrines. It is dedicated to Izanagi and Izanami deities. As the shrine lies close to the main route from eastern Japan to Kyoto, powerful warlords from the east of 16th century sent envoys and donations to Taga Taisha. Today the shrine is a little bit off the main road, but still attracts lots of pilgrims.

Rice planting festival – Otauesai

One such colorful event takes place in Taga Taisha Grand Shrine, close to Hikone in Shiga Prefecture. Rice is planted here on a sacred field by young girls in colorful folk attires. They are accompanied by shamans and shinto priests who perform rituals for good crops. Artists play folk music and stage traditional comedies. The event is also attended by a handful of officials.

Entering sacred rice paddy

Saotome during rice planting

Practical information

Taga Taisha (多賀大社) Grand Shrine is accessible by a 3rd sector railway company called Omi Railway (transfer in Hikone and go to Taga Taisha-mae station). For the rice field you need to cross the forest behind the main buildings of the shrine. Before the actual rice planting starts, there are some interesting events in the shrine itself. Some are performed for the general public on the kagura stage next to the main hall.

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