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Home » 5. Rites and Festivals » Rituals in Daily Life
Hatsuuma
"First Horse Day Festival." This term refers to the event that is held on the first day of the horse in February. It is the custom to worship Inari all over Japan, and beginning with Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyōto and Toyokawa Inari in Aichi Prefecture, shrines in all regions hold First Horse Day Festivals. The event celebrated on the second day of the horse in February is called ni no uma ("second horse"). This festival is held in conjunction with hatsuuma. In many places groups called Inari ko (confraternities) make offerings of fried bean curd (abura age) and similar items before small Inari shrines (hokora) and share food and drink. The origin of treating the first day of the horse in February as the ennichi (special festival day) of Inari is found in a legend that states that the deity (saijin) of Fushimi Inari Shrine descended from Mount Inari in 711 on the eleventh (alternatively, ninth) day of the second month, the first day of the horse, but it is not certain if this is true. On this day, apart from being the festival day of the deity Inari, all over the country horse-related events can be seen, such as taking decorated horses to a shrine or to a horse-headed Kannon (batō kannon) for worship, or offering rice cakes (mochi) on the backs of straw horses to a traveler's tutelary deity (dōsojin). In places where sericulture is popular, people also make mayudama (festive bamboo twigs hung with cocoon shaped cakes) and rice cakes and offer them to the silkworm deity (oshirasama, kokagesama). The legend that the tutelary deity of the rice paddy (ta no kami) descended from a mountain on hatsuuma can be found all over the country. The present form of this event for requesting a good harvest corresponds to the beginning of the agricultural year, and is linked to the agricultural deity aspect of Inari belief (inari shinkō).

— Iwai Hiroshi
The atmosphere of the Hatsuuma festival at Fushimi Inari Shrine. The video shows visitors entering the shrine building, and then gathering to watch priests present offerings to Inari, the deity of business and prosperity. The video also shows people lined up to purchase engimono for this particular day; in this case, branches of cedar called shirushi no sugi.

Kyoto, 2006

©Ōsawa Kōji

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