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Kanchu Misogi Festival

HOME > Japan’s Local Treasures > Kanchu Misogi Festival

 

A dramatic Shinto ritual of ablution in the icy waters of Hokkaido

Kikonai Town, Hokkaido

 

 

A tradition of Samegawa Shrine in Hokkaido, the Kanchu Misogi Festival follows the rigorous training of four Shinto ascetic practitioners as they prepare to take sacred icons from the shrine and purify them in the icy waters of the Tsugaru Strait. A prayer for a forthcoming good harvest, the festival is performed every year in the sub-zero temperatures of mid-winter.

 

On January 13, the chosen ascetics, dressed only in loincloths, purify themselves by dousing each other with pails of ice-cold water in the frosty outdoors. Come rain or shine, or even snow, they repeat the ritual several times throughout the day and night for two days.

 

When January 15 arrives, the four men each take a sacred icon from the shrine and parade to Misogi beach, before throwing themselves into the Tsugaru Strait to vigorously toss its icy waters at each other.

 

This unusual test of endurance and ablution dates back to 1831, when a shrine attendant dreamed that he should bathe a sacred icon in the Tsugaru waters, a deed that is said to have brought the region bountiful catches of fish. Onlookers who are lucky enough to be splashed by the waters are also believed to be blessed with eternal happiness.

 

How to get there

 

Misogi beach is a 7 minute walk from JR Kikonai Station.

 

 

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