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Red-haired 'ogre' scares children to tears in west Japan festival

A child cries after being frightened by an ogre with a stick in Kudoyama, Wakayama Prefecture, on Aug. 16, 2022. (Mainichi/Hiroshi Fujiwara)=Click/tap photo for more images.

KUDOYAMA, Wakayama -- A unique festival featuring a red-haired "oni," or ogre, was held at a shrine in this west Japan town on Aug. 16, with the monstrous figure praying for blessings and good harvests while scaring young children to tears.

    It was the first time in three years for the full-scale "Shiide Oni-no-mai" (Shiide ogre dance) festival to go ahead, after the event was downscaled in 2020 and 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

    It is believed that children will grow up to be strong if they touch a stick carried by the ogre. The cries of children frightened by the threatening character as it approached them echoed around the site.

    On the evening of Aug. 16, 10 men in "kamishimo" formal kimono costumes holding flutes and other items appeared at Shiide Itsukushima Shrine in the Wakayama Prefecture town of Kudoyama, led by the ogre. The ogre then went around the shrine grounds while dancing.

    Usually, the ogre scares children by holding them in its arms and blowing on them, but this year, in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, it kept its distance from the children.

    Kiyo Terada, 38, who was visiting her hometown from the city of Osaka with her 9-month-old son, said, "My child cried (after being frightened by the ogre), so I think he will grow up to be healthy."

    (Japanese original by Hiroshi Fujiwara, Hashimoto Local Bureau)

    In Photos: 'Ogre' attracts spectators, scares children at Japan shrine

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