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Home » 5. Rites and Festivals » Rituals in Okinawa and Amami
Akamata Kuromata
Belief found in many places in the Yaeyama Islands, including Komi village on Iriomote Island, Aragusuku Island, and Miyara on Ishigaki Island, referring to grass-clad, masked deities believed to bring yuu (fertility, good fortune) from Niraasuku (Nirai-kanai in the local dialect). It used also to be found at Takana and Nohara on Iriomote Island. The deities are also known as niirupitwu. They are said to be husband-and-wife deities, and in some places a third deity, called Shiromata, is considered to be their child. Mata means "face" and indicates the mask the deities wear in this instance. Puuri is the name of a harvest festival held in the sixth lunar month throughout the Yaeyama Islands. The first day is called onpuuri, harvest-thanksgiving. The second day is called murapuuri, when prayers are offered in anticipation of a good harvest in the next year; it is then that the masked deities appear. They are venerated by a secret confraternity to which all adult males belong and which preserves a strict age-hierarchy. Both the rituals and the confraternity are surrounded by secrecy. The training required to become a member of the confraternity is severe and initiation into the group, which also means initiation into adulthood, occurs on occasion of the murapuuri. Akamata Kuromata thus represents a combination of a harvest festival and an intiation ritual into adult society.

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