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Traditional farmers plant rice seedlings in the paddy field

In Osaka, Otaue Shinji, otherwise known as the Rice Planting Festival, is held at one of the greatest imperial shrines in the country – Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine. The festival is believed to have started when the shrine was built in 211. It originated from a ritual conducted by the governor who offered prayers for good harvest to the paddy fields controlled by his government.

Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine

Sumiyoshi Taisha, designated as one of the great imperial shrines of Japan, is located in a quiet unassuming neighborhood of Osaka, seemingly unfitting for such an important shrine. The shrine is mentioned in the Kojiki, the oldest known written record in Japan, which dates the establishment of Sumiyoshi in the early part of the third century common era. In 2013 the shrine will celebrate its 1800th anniversary. The four free-standing shrine buildings have all been designated as national treasure. Today the shrine is still well-known for its rice planting festival, Otaue-Shinji, which is held in June of every year.

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Traditional performers holding rice seedlings

Not only a celebration wishing for a good harvest during the spring, Otaue Shinji in Osaka is also a celebration held to remind the younger generations about ancient Osaka.

Asking for good harvest

Of particular significance is the process known as taue in which rice seedlings growing in the nursery are replanted in the paddy fields. Although events associated with this rice planting can be found all over our country, the festival at the Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine is unique for its reproduction of the rituals in faithful observance of ancient procedures in such a grand ceremonial style.

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Yaotome no Tamai and rice seedling

On the 14th of June, a stage is beautifully set up at the paddy field within the shrine’s compound. “Farmers” will then plant rice seedlings in the paddy field, accompanied by various traditional performances on the stage, which include ancient music and folk songs. One of the most famous performances is “Yaotome no Tamai” (Rice Paddy Dance of Many Maidens), where women are dressed as “maidens” and dance.

Paddies tilled by oxen

First, the paddies are tilled by oxen, which is a scene you rarely come across today in large cities. The main attractions of the rituals are the spectacular dance performances and songs. Dancing is believed to enhance the vitality of the grains.

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Performances by women wearing kasa

People living in the remote past used to believe that powerful spirits dwelled inside the rice seedlings that were to be replanted in Mother Earth. Outside the paddy fields where the women sing as they replant the seedlings, all kinds of performances are given one after the other. In addition to a dance performed by women wearing kasa (braided hats) adorned with flowers, there is a procession of samurai warriors clad in full armor.

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Ritual performances with traditional music instruments

Yaotome no Tamai

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