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Home » 5. Rites and Festivals » Individual Shrine Observances
In the past it was believed that ekishin, the kami of pestilence, was extremely active during the third month of the lunar calendar, just as the petals begin to fall.
       The gechinsai festival occurs on April 18 at Sai Jinja, the sessha (auxiliary shrine) of Ōmiwa Jinja in Sakurai City, Nara Prefecture. This festival is a chinkasai (ritual for the pacification of flowers, also hana shizume matsuri) and is believed to prevent epidemics.
       There is a gechinsai in mid-April at Nagara Jinja (Ōtsu City, Shiga Prefecture). Cherry branches are offered, in lieu of nusa, to the kami of the mountain (yama no nushi) accompanied by song. At this time, the shrine precincts (shatō) are referred to as the "crossroad of flowers" (hana no tsuji).
       At the sessha of Kasuga Taisha, Mizutani Jinja (Kasugano Town, Nara Prefecture), cherry blossoms and a performance of Mizutani kyōgen (ritual oration) are offered to the kami on April 5.
       At the Yasaka Jinja (Tawaramoto Town, Shiki County, Nara Prefecture), on the twentieth day of the first month of the lunar calendar, a ceremonial archery contest, also called a gechinsai, is held. After the ceremony at the haiden, people gather on the archery grounds in front of the targets and sit on the straw figures (representing the number of ujiko) that have been knocked over during the archery contest, and read gechin saimon (private ritual prayers). After this, three arrows made from bamboo (medake) are fitted to a plum-wood bow and shot at a metal votive lantern (tōrō). When the bow is discarded, the spectators struggle to snatch it from one another, as it is believed to ensure the birth of a male child.
       A festival with a similar name of keichinsai is held at Kashima Jinja in Kashiba City, Kitakuzushiro County, Nara Prefecture, on January 16. The primary focus of the ritual is the tōya watashi in which gohei of sakaki and shiraki (unfinished wood) are moved from the shrine to the tōya's residence.
       Another keichinsai, also known as the tsunakake matsuri, is held at Ten'ichi Jinja in Sakurai City, Nara-ken. On the fourth day of the first month of the lunar calendar, a ritual archery ceremony occurs in which a rope in the shape of a snake is shot. People carry the rope-snake on their shoulders and parade it through the village, after which they take it from the town borders to Tsunakakeyama Mountain, and then across the valley to Sengokusan Mountain. This ritual is also thought to prevent epidemics.
       In Kita Ward, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture, a festival known as the yasurai hana occurs on April 2 at Imamiya Jinja. A procession of fūryū umbrellas decorated with cherry blossoms or camellias and oni dance to the accompaniment of a hayashi ensemble. The ritual is thought to pacify ekishin, the kami of pestilence.

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