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Hadaka-mairi

A proper way to start a new year

· festival

Hatsumode is a very pleasant type of pilgrimage. It is like going to a party - wrapped in our warm coats, we come to Osaki Hachiman shrine to make a brief prayer, to buy some New Year decorations, to have some street food and a warm drink. Feels nice, but there is another well-known pilgrimage associated with Osaki Hachiman shrine, not so pleasant, but undoubtedly unforgettable and inspiring in its’ own way. How about taking a challenge of Hadaka-mairi (visiting a shrine naked in winter)?

Hadaka-mairi was started in Iwate. According to the record, the tradition was brought to Sendai by master sake brewers, who worked in Sendai, but lived in farming villages in Iwate. In their villages existed a tradition of going to the shrine naked to pray for a good harvest in the coming year. Nowadays, people don’t go to the shrine absolutely naked, but dressed in thin white clothes. On the 14th of January, the day of Matsutaki Matsuri or Dontosai (this is how this festival is called in other areas), when all the old amulets and New Year decorations are burned in a big fire, people from different parts of Sendai come to Osaki Hachiman on foot, in silence, accompanied with bell ringing, to pray for good fortune, health and safety.

Usually Hadaka-mairi is made in big groups, but it is possible to make it yourself. All you need is to purchase the traditional clothes and other accessories. And the best place you can do it is Hozumi.

Located right next to Osaki Hachiman, this shop immediately draws attention with its’ window display, featuring clothes for seasonal events. Today, it is Hadaka-mairi. Three mannequins dressed in white present the spirit of today’s Hadaka-mairi - men, women, children, anyone can participate!

The shop’s owner, mr. Hozumi, proudly shows us sets of clothing and accessories needed for the decent Hadaka-mairi. His family has gone a long way to concentrate on the festival clothing. The shop was opened 125 years ago. Before that, Hozumi family were selling goods made of straw and other small things like needles at local festivals. By the way, the surname “Hozumi” is a peculiar one, too. It is being written down as 八月朔日 (August, 1st ), but the meaning is “the first day of harvest”. Nice as a family name and as a shop’s name as well. Before big supermarkets came to Hachiman, Hozumi was selling literally everything that the locals needed - food, clothing, interior goods, and it still hasn’t lost its’ meaning for Hachiman.

Nowadays, Hozumi sells mostly comfortable good quality clothing and underwear, souvenirs, religious goods (like small shinto altars - kamidana) and, of course, festival clothing. In case if you still haven’t decided what to send to your friends and relatives, I strongly advise you to make a visit to Hozumi.

And this is a must-visit place for those who would like to participate in Hadaka-mairi.

If you are brave enough to dive into traditional Tohoku way to pay homage to the local gods, there is a great organization ready to assist you. Sendai Traditional Hadakamairi Conservation Association on 14th January 13:00 will provide a free lecture and a chance to take part in Hadaka-mairi (or to observe the ritual). The event takes place at Mori-no Yakata, next to Hachiman COOP. The lecture is in Japanese.

Happy New Year and stay with us in 2017!

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