A gathering to pray for an abundant harvest
Every year on the first day of summer the rice planting festival is held at Shimonomiya’s Chikatsu Shrine, where young girls plant rice seedlings in time to traditional songs.
Because the first day of summer falls exactly at the middle point of the division of the year into 24 periods, as was traditionally done, it became called the ‘Middle Planting Festival’. It’s not certain when this festival began, but the legend goes that it was a ritual conducted during planting on the holy rice field donated by Tokugawa Mitsukuni, leading us to believe it was already in practice by the early to middle Edo period.
The festival begins with a purification ritual at the shrine, followed by a Shinto prayer, offering of a sakaki branch, and planting songs before moving to the actual field. The shrine is decorated with shimenawa, the purifying ropes, and after the priest’s purification ritual taiko, flute and drums accompany the planting songs as 10 or so young girls plant rice seedlings in the holy field. The girls wear a light blue singlet tied with red ropes over red work pants and coolie hats. The planting songs are performed on the stage at the side of the field by the Planting Song Preservation Society.
Location: Chikatsu Shrine, Shimonomiya (Daigo)
Date: First day of summer (June 21st)