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Home » 5. Rites and Festivals » Rituals in Okinawa and Amami
Izaihō
A festival held on Kudaka Island every twelve years (during the year of the horse) from the fifteenth to the eighteenth of the eleventh month. So that the festival can take place without hindrance or impediment, prayers (ugandate) are held from the previous month, and at the end, a ritual feast is held. All women between the ages of 30 and 41 born and raised on the island and married to a man from the island undergo the rite in order to receive the spiritual power (shiji) to communicate with ancestors and deities; in other words it is a ritual to recognize those with shamanic powers. During the festival, the women remain apart from their families, isolated in a hut where they observe taboos. On the first and second days they undergo a ceremony where they ritually receive the spiritual powers of their ancestors (in the form of the ash of incense), cross a bridge seven times (symbolizing communication with the other world) to test their chastity, and perform the kashirarareashibi in which they pretend to wash their hair as part of a dance. On the third day they receive their certification as miko. On the fourth day they ritually send away the kami that have gathered for the observance and share a meal and drink sacred sake with the male siblings whom they spiritually protect as onarigami (sisters). Thus the four-day festival develops both dramatically and systematically. When all these rites are over, a lively shared meal called ubukui is held. The festival is very solemn and imposing, but because of depopulation on the island and changes in people's values, there are currently no appointed noro (priestesses) to preside over the ceremonies, as required under the noro system which has now broken down. As a result continuation of the festival has become very difficult and the izaihō due to have been held in 1989 was cancelled.

— Hatakeyama Atsushi
Kudaka Island, where the Izaihō is performed(seen from an utaki ritual site).

Okinawa Prefecture, 2002

©Fujii Hiroaki

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