Held annually from November to March at several locations of the Oku-Mikawa area, the Hana Festivals are an ancient tradition of over 700 years that have been appointed as Important National Intangible National Folkloric Heritages. Fugawa is another location highly praised for its authenticity and compliance to ancient traditions, from the initial "Taki-Harai" purification to the very last "Miya-Watari" return of the gods. The "Zazechi" decorations also follow the strict rules, and for all of this, specialists continuously give this place high commendations and great numbers of visitors flock there to see it. One of the interesting acts has the "Mokichi-Oni" (O-Kuni-Nushi) demon shaking the beehive (the bag with colored paper strips) with his mallet and purifying it. The dropped paper is believed to bring good fortune so the visitors stumble to get a hold of them - be sure to not get caught in the ensuing upheaval.
Hana Festivals are a treat of traditional dances, rituals, ceremonies, and visits by demons, ogres, spirits, gods and mythical beasts, the Hana Matsuri is a lively winter solstice festival known for the “Tehohe! Tehohe!” chanting that goes along the shamanistic dances that characterizes it, and that in most cases runs through the night. Virtually a must-stop for tourists seeking to further deepen the insights about the livelihood of the Japanese mountain dwellers.
The Hana Matsuri was first brought to the Oku-Mikawa region (Eastern Aichi) about 800 years ago by the warrior monks of Kumano and Kagahakusan. Back then the festival was a grand event called Okagura, and took place over seven days and nights and featured some 130 ritual dances and performances involving villagers from around the region. The amount of time, effort and money required to stage the event was enormous, and so it was only staged every seven or 20 years, using 100 gold Ryo coins (about 3.75 kg) and 100 bales of rice (about 6,000 kg), with more hidden in the forest in case they ran out.
About 400 years ago, the festival arrived at its present form, shortened to a one-day, one-night localized festival featuring up to 16 varied traditional dances, rituals, ceremonies, and visits by ogres, spirits, gods and mythical beasts. The Shinto rites and the dances remain essential parts of the festival, although the names and styles of the dances may differ according to location. Taking part is easy. Turn up, and you’ll be more than welcome to join in.
The reason for the name change from the Okagura to the Hana Festival has been lost to history, and there are a number of explanations as to why and how it became the Hana, or Flower Festival floating around. The children’s dances have a certain cuteness, while some of the demon dances featuring huge red devil masks may seem comical. The youth and adult dances represent a more traditional style of festivity. At the climax, boiling water is splashed around using straw brushes, and being sprayed is seen as most auspicious, bringing good health for a year. Some of the rituals may seem strange or pointless, however the traditions are adhered to in an effort to invoke the powers of the sun, and provide a traditional entertainment for all who come to enjoy.