What is Toribisha?
Toribisha is a tradition around Lake Teganuma with a history of over 300 years. The area is prone to natural disasters such as floods that negatively impact agricultural yields. Additionally, an increase in duck hunters put ducks and other birds at risk in the past. At Toribisha, the people pray for a safe harvest and protection from disaster for both humans and birds. In the Izumi area, they also ask for protection from personal misfortune and perform a ritual to expel demons and crows. People at Toribisha form birds out of mochi (rice cake) and decorate them on Toriboku (small trees).
Expelling demons sounds very difficult. Let me introduce the correct way to get rid of unwanted demons. You must write the word "Demon" on a piece of paper and shoot it with a specially prepared bow and arrow.
From one Generation to the Next
Originally, the Toribisha tradition of making small mochi birds was performed by each household in the area. In the Washinoya area, the Izumi area, and at Michi no Eki Shounan’s annual Toribisha events, you can try and make the birds yourself. Maintaining the Toribisha tradition in the Izumi area is the mission of the Izumi Toribisha Preservation Society. Every year in the second half of February, they create colorful Toriboku, expel demons from the area and perform the Toribisha Ritual at Myoukensha Shrine. The cute little mochi birds are especially popular with children. I hope seeing these birds inspires the children to join the preservation society in the future or start performing Toribisha at home.
I joined this year’s Toribisha at the picturesque Myoukensha. The shrine is like a secret base hidden in the forest which makes you feel comfortably isolated. If you want to go on your own, be sure to search for Izumi Myoukensha on your map application. Just searching for Myoukensha will lead you to a completely unrelated location.
The Color of the Birds
In the next section, rather than words, I want to let the pictures speak for themselves. Here are some of the handcrafted mochi birds I saw.
After the Toribisha ceremony and the cleanup, everyone moved from Myoukensha to an after-party at the nearby community center. One of the members was kind enough to give me a ride. All the members seemed to be close. At the after-party, they ate and drank together. Before the after-party started with a powerful "Kampai!", the responsibilities for next year’s Toribisha were discussed. Before I left everyone to celebrate, one of the supporters handed me a bottle of cold tea. Sadly, the beers were only for the members of the preservation society and not for the reporters. Fair enough. I still left the compound with a smile on my face.
Since I was in the area, I took a stroll around the beautiful Washinoya area. I stopped by "Eagle 137" and enjoyed lunch with a beautiful view of the patty fields in front of me.
Date of coverage: 22nd February 2020
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