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.
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
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.
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.
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.