A weird festival having roots in human sacrifice
OSHISSAMA-no-Owatari (Fukui City)
September 8th, 2016
by Yoshihiro Hosokawa

North America and other western countries have Thanksgiving Day in autumn, originally celebrating and thanking the blessing of a good harvest.  Japan has various kinds of local harvest festivals in autumn, too.  One of the weirdest festivals is “OSHISSAMA-no-Owatari” in Fukui.

oshissama%e2%91%a0Japanese people have lived with nature for a long time.  Natural disasters,  such as earthquakes, tsunami, typhoons and volcanic eruptions, have unexpectedly occurred, killing many people.  The ancient people were scared of nature, believing a natural disaster was a sign of god’s anger.  In order to please god and prevent such severe disaster, they offered a human sacrifice in some regions of Japan, especially in farming and fishing villages.

oshissama%e2%91%a1“OSHISSAMA-no-Owatari” is sadly rooted in such a human sacrifice.   

oshissama%e2%91%a2According to the folktale, once upon a time, local people believed that they had to offer a young kid as a human sacrifice in order to prevent serious famine.   One of the local children was chosen and sent to a spooky bridge named “SHINIKO-no-HASHI,” every September.  However, one day, a samurai visited the village, saying “Your beliefs are totally wrong.  A monster has been tricking you for a long time.”  He successfully got rid of the monster and left from the village soon after.  Finally peace came to the village: no more human sacrifice.

oshissama%e2%91%a3%e2%98%85Since then, for more than 800 years, “OSHISSAMA-no-Owatari” has been held annually on the 2nd Sunday of October, celebrating freedom from human sacrifices and thanking the samurai named “Sarudahiko” and his wife.  One of the four local men bravely dances to drums toward the shrine named “Takao Shrine”.  Local children cheerfully sing the song as follows:

oshissama%e2%91%a4%e2%98%85“After crossing the bridge named ‘SHINIKO-no-HASHI’, let the kid hold your breast and give him a meal.  If he doesn’t like it, give him a feast.”

The lyrics indicate the sad moment of a mother separating from her kid who is to be a human sacrifice.

oshissama%e2%91%a6Nobody knows the reason why this song is focused on such a cruel moment.  The song may tell us the deep love of a mother to her children.  But nobody knows for sure.   That has remained a mystery for a long time.






「シニコノハシヲ コシタナラ イカイチチヲ ニギラセテ ナンバミソイヤナラ ゴットミソ(『死児の橋』を越したなら、大きな乳房を握らせて、なんば味噌が嫌なら郷土料理『ごっと味噌』を食べさせよ)」



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