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700-yr-old central Japan festival with ogres publicly staged for 1st time since 2019

The Sakaki ogre, holding a broadax, dances during the Hana Matsuri in the Aichi Prefecture town of Toei just before midnight on Nov. 22, 2022. (Mainichi/Shinichiro Kawase)

TOEI, Aichi -- The Hana Matsuri, an ancient festival designated as a national important intangible folk cultural property, is being publicly staged here for the first time in three years following a hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, enlivened by dancing ogres.

    Held in Aichi Prefecture's Okumikawa region, the festival is being performed publicly this year in five districts within three towns and villages. The Tsuki district in the town of Toei kicked off festivities on Nov. 22 and 23, with participants joining in the late-night dances.

    The festival is said to have continued for over 700 years with prayers for good harvests and heath. In normal years, it is held in 14 districts between November and January. Local residents and other participants dance around a cooking stove late into the night, and there are many festival fans who repeatedly travel from afar to take part.

    The Sakaki ogre, holding a broadax, dances during the Hana Matsuri in the Aichi Prefecture town of Toei on the evening of Nov. 22, 2022. (Mainichi/Shinichiro Kawase)

    At the Tsuki district community center, the Sakaki ogre, holding an ax, and the Yamami ogre performed valiant dances, accompanied to lively festival chants of "teehohe, tehohe" by onlookers.

    Toshie Nakashima, a 67-year-old from the Gifu Prefecture city of Toki who took part, said with a smile, "I'm happy to share this atmosphere with everyone for the first time in three years. I can't bear to ring in the new year without seeing the festival."

    While the celebration was held with precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, such as refraining from providing food, Tetsuji Fujita, head of the Hana Matsuri preservation society, commented, "I'm glad we could make it a grand event."

    The festival is set to continue in Kouchi in the town of Toei on Nov. 26 and 27; Sakauba in the village of Toyone on the same dates; Nakashitara in the town of Toei on Dec. 3 and 4; and Tsugu in the town of Shitara on Jan. 2 and 3 next year.

    (Japanese original by Shinichiro Kawase, Nagoya News Center)

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