January 20, 2020
Tohoku is home to some of the most unique festivals throughout the whole of Japan. Perhaps one of the most visually striking however is the Dontosai (どんと際) festival that takes place across Miyagi Prefecture. The festival itself is done to pray for good health and fortune in the New Year – which is done by locals lighting a massive bonfire and burning their used new year’s decorations. It’s said that those who are touched by the smoke will be gifted with good health.
The festival is also famous for the ‘hadaka-mairi’ （裸参り）tradition or naked pilgrimage where groups of locals dressed only in loincloths make their way through the cold streets to take offerings to the shrine. Some years participants even make their way through the snow – it is also customary to ‘purify’ oneself in ice-cold water before the festival begins.
The largest of these rituals takes place at the Osaki Hachimangu Shrine in Sendai. The festival takes place around Miyagi every year on January 14th.