Festivals of Japan – Attending Otaue Rice Planting Matsuri

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If there is ever a competition on who loves Rice the most, I feel Japan will win it easily. They drink Sake (rice beer), they celebrate with mochi (rice cake) and refer to every meal of the day as ‘Gohan’ or cooked rice. So breakfast becomes ASAgohan, lunch is HIRUgohan and BANgohan means dinner.

The Otaue Rice Planting Festival in Osaka is one of the most famous festivals in the Kansai region of Japan. The festival is held every June 14th at the famous Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine and is an ancient Shinto festival to pray for a rich rice harvest.
Plantation in progress – Otaue Rice Planting Festival in Osaka, Japan

Not only in language, rice has deep cultural connections to culture and life in Japan. In fact, Japan was indigenously known as “Mizuho no Kuni” – the land of water stock plant/ rice. In early centuries, an Emperor would personally take interest in rice plantation and production of rice products such as sake and mochi. And even to this day, Emperor blesses the rice crop.

Given this much importance, even cultivation and harvest of rice is celebrated as festivals in Japan. Otaue Rice Planting Festival is one of the most famous festivals in Japan.I had a chance to attend this festival at the oldest Shinto Shrine, Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine where this festival is celebrated every year since 211 in all its ancient glory. And I must say it was spectacular.

Attending Otaue Rice Planting Festival at Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine, Osaka

Otaue Rice Planting Festival In Japan - The festival starts with the grand entry of decorated oxen who tills the paddies. Next, the planters take part in a special purification ritual where the rice seedlings are purified.
The festival starts with the grand entry of decorated oxen who tills the paddies. Next, the planters take part in a special purification ritual where the rice seedlings are purified.
Otaue Rice Planting Festival, JapanThe priests then present these rice seedlings (that have been grown in a nursery) to the planters who then proceed to the rice paddy, wading into the mud, to plant the seedlings.
The priests then present these rice seedlings (that have been grown in a nursery) to the planters who then proceed to the rice paddy, wading into the mud, to plant the seedlings.
Planting the rice seedlings, Otaue Rice Planting Matsuri
Planting the rice seedlings

Alongside, a whole sequence of ancient rituals and dance performances takes place. People believe that powerful spirits live inside the rice seedlings and music enhances the vitality of seeds which in turn yields a good harvest.

 

Otaue Rice Planting Festival, a whole sequence of ancient rituals and dance performances takes place.Japan
Little kids dressed as Samurai as a part of music and dance performance.

 

Otaue Rice Planting Festival, Little Samurai
Little Samurai

There is also a procession of little kids dressed as samurai warriors along the field. It is a delight to see these kids marching along the fields and protecting them.

 

There is also a procession of little kids dressed as samurai warriors along the field. It is a delight to see these kids marching along the fields and protecting them.
Protecting the fields
The last performance of the day is Sumiyoshi Dance which is performed by 150 girls from the nearby schools.
The last performance of the day is Sumiyoshi Dance which is performed by 150 girls from the nearby schools.
Otaue Rice Planting Festival
Special guests at Otaue Rice Planting Festival :P

Back home, we have similar festivals in Vijayawada (Eruvaka) and Manipur (Lui-Ngai-Ni) but I never had a chance to attend them. So I was really happy to attend the Otaue festival in Japan. If you can, you should attend Otaue Festival.

Otaue Rice Planting Festival Information:

  • Otaue Rice Planting Festival is held every June 14th at the famous Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine, Osaka.
  • There are no entry charges. If you carry a DSLR, you can easily sneak into the area reserved for the media for great shots.
  • If you can’t make it to Osaka, find the nearest Shinto Shrine in your area. You can be sure to find some celebrations there.
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One thought on “Festivals of Japan – Attending Otaue Rice Planting Matsuri

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