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Home » 5. Rites and Festivals » Individual Shrine Observances
Mato-bakai
Scrambling for the Target. An archery rite on January 15, at Shioji Shrine in Nagasu Town, Tamana County, Kumamoto Prefecture. "Bakau" means "to scramble for something." On the morning of the fifteenth after the ceremonies, three arrows are shot with oak bows at two targets in front of the shrine, a straw one more than thirty centimeters in diameter and a paper one about sixty centimeters in diameter. These targets are constructed the eve of the festival at the seashore by individuals from predetermined families who have undertaken a strict period of abstinence (kessai). Around one o'clock in the afternoon, the targets are thrown into the crowd of naked youth waiting in front of the Ceremonial Hall (haiden). The youths leave the shrine, pass through the town, head for the shore and enter the ocean, all the while jostling and scrambling for the targets. Finally, the organizers of the festival cut the targets into two with a knife and distribute them to the upper and lower groups. Both groups shred the targets and hand them out to local parishioners (ujiko). These are placed in the household alter as protection against fire. The origin of the religious event goes back about eight hundred years to events surrounding the installation of Yamatotakeru-no-mikoto, the enshrined deity of Shioji Shrine. The residents, wishing that some of his holy merit would rub off on them, scrambled for the round seats made of straw. Also called the Naked Festival and the Hamayumi (a type of ceremonial arrow) Rite.

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