Last night, I watched a TV program that introduced Kanchu Misogi(=Purification in coldness) of Samekawa shrine in Kikonai. Four practitioners rushed into Tsugaru straits in this coldness again this year, each holding a sacred statue in their arms. 昨日、木古内町の佐女川神社の寒中みそぎがテレビで紹介されていました。今年も4人の行者が寒中の津軽海峡にご神体を持って突入しておりました。
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.
「寒中みそぎ」が始まったのは１８３１年。 "Kanchu(in coldness) Misogi(purification)" started in 1831.
この年、神社守の夢枕に「御神体を潔めよ」とのお告げがあり、目を覚ますと寒気肌さす１月１５日の早朝でした。 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.
神社守は直ちに真下を流れる佐女川（さめがわ）の氷を打ち砕き、身を切るような冷水で自身を清め御神体を抱いて海岸に臨むと、河口に大鮫が波に打たれ、その背中の上に美しい白衣をまとった女性の姿が見えました。 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.
「あぁ、聖なる神の使者」と信じ、御神体を幾度となく沐浴し、ふと見ると女性の姿は見えず、大鮫は川の上流へ上がり小さな沼に消されたといいます。 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.
その年から、豊漁豊作が続いて村は大変賑わったといわれています。 It is said that since then, the town was blessed with bumper catch and crop and thrived a lot.
以来、行修者と呼ばれる４人の若者が１月１３日から佐女川神社に籠もり、昼夜問わず真水で何度も自身の身体を潔（きよ）め、毎年１月１５日に別当・稲荷・山の神・弁財天の４体の御神体を抱き、厳寒の津軽海峡に飛び込み、その年の豊漁・豊作を祈願する伝統行事として引き継がれています 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". 夫の友人に木古内出身者がいるので、その友人もやればよかったのに、と話しをしたら、「半端ないぞ」、ということでした。
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. お祭り期間中（1月13日?15日）神社の境内の井戸水で何度も水ごりをするのですが、あれが大丈夫になるくらいやらないと海に入ったときに耐えられないのだそうです。
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. テレビでは一年目の青年を中心に撮影していましたが、一日目はぶるぶる震えている感じで目が半分死んでいる感じがしたのですが、二日目からはなんだか表情がキリッとしていて、なんとも言えないすごみを感じました。
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. テレビでは四年目で、今年のお祭りが最後になる行修者の若者が心底うれしそうに残りの三人に来年以降のお祭り、がんばれ?、とでも言わんがばかりに挨拶しているのが笑っちゃいました。
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! それにしても181回のうち、脱落者はいない、と言っていますが、脱落者を許さず続けてきたお祭り。オソロシー
Akiko lives in a city next to Hakodate and loves to drive around Hakodate and surrounding area. I hope people who visit or live in the Southwest area of Hokkaido come to love the area, too. 函館の隣町在住で道南エリアのドライブ大好きAkikoです。道南を訪れたり、住んでいる人が土地を好きになってくれたらなぁ、と思います。