Inoru, Tanushimaru.Inoru, Tanushimaru.

Inoru, Tanushimaru.Inoru, Tanushimaru.

Yodo: Glimpses of a Nostalgic Summer Festival


From late July to mid-September, many shrines in Tanushimaru hold the Yodo festival. The ritual prays for good health amidst the sweltering summer heat, and subsequent bountiful harvests. While nighttime festivities were once prevalent, nowadays, most districts only conduct the daytime ritual. However, exploring various regions sparks the imagination of the lively Yodo of the past.

Illuminating the Shrine Grounds:

On Yodo day, hanging lanterns and large stand lanterns are adorned throughout the shrine hall and grounds, also small lanterns along the path leading to the main shrine. This practice is likely to be a remnant of the nighttime festivities, and some places still light the lanterns at dusk.

The Yodo Manju:

On the kamidana (shrine shelf), offered are the "Yodo Manju" or “Game no Ha Manju,” dumplings wrapped in "Game no Ha (leaves of smilax china)”. In the past, children would collect these leaves from the mountains, and their mothers would prepare a large quantity of manju dumplings to be shared with relatives and acquaintances.

Chi no Wa (Sacred Circle of Kaya):

Some shrines incorporate the Chi no Wa (Circle of Kaya) ritual alongside the Yodo festival. Participants pass through the circle to purify their bodies and minds, warding off evil spirits and praying for good health and well-being.

Echoes of a Grand Night Festival:

Up to 50 years ago, the nighttime festival thrived, organized by the local youth. The festivities were grand, featuring performances by enka singers, gidayū (narrative storytelling), kōdan (traditional storytelling), and even film screenings within the shrine grounds. Older residents who witnessed the event often express their fond memories of the lively festivities.

Reviving the Night Festival Spirit:

While few in number, nighttime festivals still exist today. Organized by young people, these events feature activities like cider chugging contests, bingo tournaments, dance performances, gold-fish catching, and food stalls. Some places even organize children’s dedicatory sumo wrestling matches or a sports festival for all ages.

The Enduring Significance of Yodo:

Even in its present form, Yodo remains a significant day for fostering unity and joy within the community. Historically, it has played a vital role in maintaining the social fabric of Tanushimaru. While the majority of lantern decorations and nighttime festivities have faded away, and even the remaining areas struggle to maintain their traditions, understanding the joy and significance of Yodo could reignite its potential as a catalyst for community revitalization.