Akutai Festival

When: December 15 2:30 – 5pm
Where: Iitsuna Shrine (the north side of Atago Shrine), Kasama City
Access: By car: 15 minutes by local road from the Joban Expressway Iwama IC
By train: Get off at Iwama station and walk to the top of Mt. Atago (50 minutes)

If you want something a little different from the usual festival fare, the Akutai Festival is the place to get it. The word akutai means to abuse or swear at someone. There are several accounts of the origin of the Akutai Festival – one account states that akutai was originally written with the characters for ‘evil’ and ‘exorcise’ (still being pronounced akutai) and that it was a festival to ward off illness and evil spirits. Another version has it that the purpose of the festival was for the feudal lord to discern the grievances and dissatisfaction of the people from their shouted abuse.

The Akutai Festival is celebrated by the people of the Izumi area at the foot of Mt. Atago on November 14 of the lunisolar calendar (December 15 by today’s calendar) around the thirteen tengu (mythical bird-like creatures with long noses), Atago Shrine, and Iitsuna Shrine. Atago Shrine is one of the three main shrines dedicated to Atago Gongen, a deity worshipped as a protector against fire.

During this unusual festival, thirteen people will don white clothing to become tengu, and make offerings at the shrine of the thirteen tengu. The people visiting the shrine for the festival will shout obscenities at them, get in their way, and try to steal the offerings. Those who succeed in nabbing an offering and take it home with them will have good health and a plentiful harvest.

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