This purification ceremony is 181th this year. I was really surprised knowing that it started so long ago. I checked the web site of Kikonai town that shows the beginning of this ceremony.
寒中みそぎは今年で181回を数えるとのこと。そんなに昔から！とびっくりしてしまいました。木古内町の寒中みそぎことはじめを読んでみると....(The below is quoted from the left.こちらから引用：http://www.town.kikonai.hokkaido.jp/kankoujouhou/ibento/kantyuumisogikotohajime/kantyuumisogikotohajime.htm) English translation by me.
"Kanchu(in coldness) Misogi(purification)" started in 1831.
In the year (of 1831), the administrator of the shrine received a divine prophecy in his dream that said, "Purify the icon of the god" and when he woke up, it was a cold early morning of January 15th.
The administrator soon walked to the Samekawa River which ran just below the shrine and crashed the ice and purified himself with the cutting cold water. Then holding the icon, he walked toward the sea shore and found a woman near the river mouth. She was in beautiful white gown and stood on the back of a big shark.
He believed, "she must be a messenger of the sacred god!" Then he purified the icon several times. Then, he noticed that there wasn't the woman anymore. But he saw the big shark swimming upstream and disappearing in a small swamp.
It is said that since then, the town was blessed with bumper catch and crop and thrived a lot.
Since then, four young men that are called "gyoshusha" stay in the Samekawa shrine from January 13th and purify themselves several times with cold water day and night and on January 15th, they hold four sacred icons; Betto, Inari, Yamanokami, Benzaiten, in their arms and rush into the bitter cold Tsugaru Straits. This ceremony has been succeeded (for 181 years) as a traditional ceremony which pray for an abundant catch and harvest of the year.
Four young boys are all around twenty years old and once they become the gyoshusha, or the one who practice the purification ceremony, they have to purify themselves for four years. If you start to purify benzaiten in the first year, next year, you have to purify another sacred icon. You have to purify all four sacred icons for four years. This year, a boy from Akita prefecture joined the ceremony to purify the benzaiten for the first time. He is a freshman at a university in Hakodate. Why he joined the ceremony? I found the answer in this web site, hakobula. He is a member of a research group whose professor researches this purification ceremony. His purpose is for his research, but, really amazing and respectable.
A friend of my husband is from Kikonai. I talked to my husband, "Why didn't your friend become the gyoshusha?" His reply was simple, "It's "kick ass".
The practitoners purify themselves in the precincts with well water several time during the festival, which is from January 13 through 15. Unless they remain calm with it, they never tolerate the coldness of the sea water.
The TV program focused on the first year gyoshusha, the boy from Akita. On the first day, he was shivering and his eyes seemed half-dead. But on the second day, his face changed. He took on a determined look and I felt something awesome.
In the same program at the last, the boy who finished his four-year duty seemed very happy with all his heart and greeted the others. It made me laugh XD.
Anyway, the TV said that for 181 times, there has been no drop-out. But it means, any drop-out has not been allowed. It's really terrible!
Mamemaki, or bean-throwing ceremony is performed at home, temples, kindergartens or nursery homes, etc. At the bean-throwing ceremony, the thrower has to say aloud, "Oni wa soto, Fuku wa uchi.(Evil is out, happiness inside!)" This ceremony is done to drive bad things away from your home, so during bean-throwing, windows or doors are opened. If you have small children, the practice may be fun, but for only adult-households or people who live alone, it is a little embarrassing. At least for me and for my husband.
We are reluctant to practice bean-throwing but I want to do something on setsubun. So, we celebrate setsubun with another adequate practice, which originates in Kansai region. It is called Eho-maki, or makizushi eating ceremony. "Eho" is a good direction of the year and "maki" means a makizushi, a sushi roll. Usually makizushi is served after being cut in pieces, but at this makizushi-eating ceremony, the sushi roll will be served without being cut. You are supposed to eat a sushi roll without a word while facing the lucky direction of the year.
Eho-maki satisfies the need of people like me and now it is wide-spread nationwide. For people those who suffer from deciding the menu of the day, it is a salvation from the chronic trouble.
The photo above was taken at my friend's house. She has a son and for him, his grandmother has displayed the set. He is loved by everyone;)
And next photo is carp streamers called koinoboi. Koi is a carp and nobori means a banner. The reason those banners are shaped carps comes from a Chinese legend that says only carps could swim up a rapid of Yellow Rivers and became dragons. So carps became a symbol of success for boys. The koinoboi in the photo is owned by Kubota Farm;)
When I visited my friend's house, they have a gorgeous seven-tired display of Hina Dolls and asked a permission to take photos of it. It is about 70 years old. Usually hina dolls are dressed in costumes of nobles of Heian period(794-1185) but hair styles of the dolls are children's at that time and very cute!
When I visited my grandmother's, her hina dolls were also on display. They are flat.
The origin of hina dolls is nagashi-bina(Lit. floating down dolls) and people used to floated nagashi-bina down the river having transferred bad lucks to the dolls. Dolls in Japanese mean "the shape of human". Today, there is a theory that people transfer bad lucks to the dolls by touching them when they put them on display.
There is another secular theory. If you keep your hina dolls on display so long after March 3rd, the Doll Festival, the girl(s) in the house will get to slow to marry in future. You might often hear this;)
It snows today, too, although we are already in March. I hope it will be warmer soon.
As this festival gets nearer, I feel happy and sometimes have a lively talk with others who share the same experience.
If you want to know more about this festival, please refer to the following entry I wrote last year.
This photo is a bamboo grass with ornaments, a sign for children.