Posts by Current Residents of Nagasaki Prefecture @en

Okunchi Festival in Naru

19Nov 2012 jagwar.jim
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Naru is a tiny island off the coast of Japan which has a festival where the local men throw mochi from boats to the women and children of the village. Mochi is a special kind of food from Japan. Its festival happens every year in October, and this year I was lucky enough to be able to follow the men all day covering the event.


Flags decorate the boats for the festival



Naru is located amoungst a cluster of islands off the coast of Nagasaki called Goto. It has a low population, and I get the impression the town on the island is a fishing town. There are few shops, but Naru has a great karaoke bar, and a great Okunchi festival.


The Festival

The festival starts at a shrine near one of the ports, and the men, dressed in white traditional clothing carry a miniature shrine from the main building of a shrine, to a boat waiting for them at the port, chanting as they go. They load the shrine and drums onto the boat, and then they, along with a bunch of other boats sail to a cave about 25 minutes away, to pray and throw mochi. Sometimes they make the mochi with coins inside, to increase the offering to the God. From what I understood, the belief is that the God resides in the cave, and the men go to pray and offer the mochi to it, but my Japanese can be a bit wobbly when talking to older men from an island in Japan. They then sail to the main port, where the women and children (and some men) are waiting for them, and they proceed to throw bags of mochi at the crowd. Once this is complete, they unload the boat, and carry the miniature shrine around the town, stopping at local shops where they are offered beer, sake, and snacks! The local shopkeepers also have a chance to pray to the shrine. The shrine is returned to the main shrine at the end of the festival.

Below are the photos from the festival, along with captions to explain what is happening. I had a great day, I hope you enjoy the photos and have found this informative! Please, leave a comment below!


The shrine where the festival started and finished


A quick cigarette before the hard work begins


Final preparations for the shrine



The men walk carrying the shrine. Everyone is in close quarters



The shrine is carried on the men’s shoulders


Everyone arrives at the boat, ready to load it


Ready to load the shrine onto the boat


The men load the boat


Pushing the shrine up onto the boat


Waiting for the boat to sail, preparations complete


          Setting sail


Boats go in convoy to the cave


The boats line up in front of the cave before the men pray to the God.


Heading to the main port of Naru to throw Mochi at the women


          A boy prepares the mochi


The mochi is ready. Waiting to arrive at the port.


Children try to get as much mochi as they can from the boat


Crowds of people receive mochi from the men on the boats


When all the mochi is gone, the men unload the boat.


Beer, sake, snacks are offered to all the men of the festival.


After a quick beer, the men prepare to take the shrine around the town


Setting off around town


Making their way to the first shop


Taking a quick rest at one of the shops in town.


More beer.


And the men are about to go again


At each shop the shrine stops at, the men lift the heavy shrine many times over. It looked dangerous.


The leader waits in front of the shrine


The shrine being carried through the streets


Men of the festival.


Occasionally some of the men are forced to down some beers while the others cheer them on!


Getting tired…


Pushing the shrine


Another rest.


A taiko drummer keeps all the chants in time


Enjoying more beer!