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Hana-matsuri — Part Two

Posted: 05/11/2021
Category: Japanese Festivals

One of the most exciting part of Hana-matsuri features Meshinuri and Misonuri who carry little wooden bats tarnished with rice paste and miso paste (fermented soya bean), respectively. They chase people trying to sully their faces without minding anything and anybody. Everybody pretends to avoid being dirtied, knowing at the same time they are invested, through contagious magic, with healthy and wealthy life. The dance expresses the idea of fertility and rich harvests. Comic gestures and laughter are also important elements, fortifying the energy of those present in the festival.

Meshinuri and Misonuri are in no time joined by two or more Okame – men impersonating fat and dull women – who flirt with the spectators. Licentious behavior is related to ancient folk beliefs in which night was perceived as a realm of the mysterious and supernatural when droll gestures were allowed without being sanctioned. Such erotic elements are thought to stand for procreation. Even though they lose their primary significance, they get through performance a new spiritual profile, outlining a certain type of relationship amongst the members of the community. Their cultural dimension as a ritual is very important, the ritual itself being indispensable to the traditional way of life. Without it, people would forget how to enjoy an event and how to create and develop their existence imbued with meaning.


In the morning the fire is kindled again and the water in the cauldron boils for the climactic moment of Hana-matsuri. Four young men dressed in typical attire spring out on to the improvised stage, with straw bundles in their hands. They dance elegantly but energetically for an hour, and the drumbeats get faster and faster when the young men dip their straw bundles into the boiling water and randomly sprinkle drops of hot water around them, without minding anybody.

People scream and flee the flying hot drops but only after making sure they have been touched. Everything around is soaked, but everybody believes that hot drops mean health throughout the ensuing year, the purification of the community and of the whole microcosm being thus achieved.


Asa-oni (“the Morning Demon”) attacks the heart of the canopies known as “honey combs”. People scramble for the coins mixed up with the confetti-like five-colored pieces of paper standing for “the seeds of the Universe”. Both are considered divine rewards.

As with other matsuri, tradition is subjected here as well to eternal re-interpretations and the very potential of being adapted for present situations and feelings accounts for its lasting long. How could it be ignored?

After being entertained, the deities are sent back to their world with proper rites.

The portable shrine with the local Kami of Hana-matsuri

Parishioners take down the portable shrine that contains the spirit of the guardian deity and go round the cauldron to the sound of the flute and of the drum whilst chanting sacred songs as a form of greeting addressed to the departing kami.

Few people remained to attend the final ritual of food offerings given to the guardian deity during Hana-matsuri. It confirms once again my opinion that the Japanese keep their tradition carefully not so much with a religious purpose in view, but rather in order to meet their spiritual needs. The Japanese are not religious in the same way as other nations are.

Letter to Japan
UMC Bucharest 2020
p. 84-87
Photos: Angela Hondru©

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