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Home » 5. Rites and Festivals » Individual Shrine Observances
Ushi matsuri
Cow festival. A rite held on the first day of the cow in January at the shrine Dazaifutenmangū in Dazaifu City, Fukuoka prefecture. The origins of this rite are connected to Sugawara no Michizane, the enshrined kami (saijin) of the shrine. When he was demoted to provisional governor-general of Dazaifu, he traveled to his post, a virtual exile. On his way he visited his aunt, the nun Kakuju in Kawachi province (in present-day Osaka prefecture). During the night of his stay there was repeated mooing by nearby cows. Since this was believed to be an omen of evil, Michizane left immediately. The next evening spies from Fujiwara Tokihira made a night attack on the nun's dwelling. Based on this tradition, Dazaifutenmangū has observed a festival of prayers for household safety and protection from calamitous misfortune.
       The taue (rice field planting) festival of Inau Jinja in Yamada, Fuchū-chō, Aki-gun, Fukuoka prefecture, is also called ushi matsuri. Two people get into each of two cow-shaped bamboo baskets, and in front of the shrine they enact cows tilling rice fields. Following this two girls who represent rice-transplanting maidens (saotome) enact the planting of rice using sakaki (a variety of camellia sacred to shrines) branches symbolizing rice seedlings.

— Mogi Sakae
"Establishment of a National Learning Institute for the Dissemination of Research on Shinto and Japanese Culture"
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