ISAHAYA, Nagasaki -- A festival to tear up tatami mats and rub the straw against the participants' skin to pray for good health was held at Nanko Shrine here on Jan. 13.
The shrine is dedicated to military commander Kusunoki Masashige, who won a battle against the large military forces of the Kamakura shogunate in 1333, during the Kamakura period (1185-1333).
During the ritual, a total of 40 men separated into two groups. One represented Kusunoki defending the main hall of the shrine, and the other playing the part of the Kamakura shogunate troops attacking the site. They faced off against each other over the tatami mats, and rubbed the straw from the ripped mats on their opponents' skin while shouting.
Yuji Matsuo, a 32-year-old firefighter, commented, "I hope this year will turn out to be peaceful after the many disasters last year."
(Japanese original by Junko Adachi, Isahaya Local Bureau)