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Eerie procession of deities stuns crowds at Beppu hot spring resort festival

A group in eerie-looking costumes and masks are seen performing a Shinto ritual as they parade around the city of Beppu, Oita Prefecture, on Dec. 18, 2021. (Mainichi/Toru Oshima) =Click/tap photo for more images.

BEPPU, Oita -- A group of residents and dancers dressed as eerie-looking deities paraded from a shrine to a hot spring district to perform a Shinto ritual as part of a contemporary arts festival which began in the southwest Japan city of Beppu on Dec. 18.

    The festival "in BEPPU," held in the Oita Prefecture city famous for its hot spring baths, invites a guest artist to produce a solo exhibition each year. This year's producer, Tamae Hirokawa, created the eccentric masks and costumes worn by 12 residents and dancers in the procession traveling from Honoo Honome Shrine to the Kannawa Onsen area.

    A performer dressed as a mud deity, front, and others dance at the "mushiyu (steam bath) square" of Kannawa Onsen in the city of Beppu, Oita Prefecture, on Dec. 18, 2021. (Mainichi/Toru Oshima) =Click/tap photo for more images.

    The Shinto ritual to drive away evil spirits resembled a fashion show. Performers donned red and black costumes as they struck traditional taiko drums and bells. While spectators watched in awe, a number of young children began crying in front of the eerie-looking performers jumping and making groaning noises.

    Hirokawa said, "I produced the festival with the image of visiting deities of the mountains, sea and hot springs of Beppu to ask them to end epidemics including the coronavirus."

    The costumes designed by Hirokawa are on display for free-of-charge viewing at the Honoo Honome Shrine and the Kannawa hot spring district's Otani Park until Feb. 13, 2022. Footage of the festival can also be seen online.

    (Japanese original by Toru Oshima, Beppu Local Bureau)

    In Photos: Eccentric deities parade through Japan's Beppu hot springs area

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