This traditional event is held in early spring between early February and the middle of March. The event is celebrated in 5 villages in the basin of the Agano River in Higashikanbara County and 1 village in Shibata City where the festival took root in the Meiji period.
In the early morning on the festival day, villagers and members of a religious association all make a large straw doll together. The doll, called Shoki, has an exaggerated male phallic symbol; they deify it on the outskirts of the village, praying for a huge harvest, the well-being of the family and villagers, sound health, disaster prevention and fertility during the year.
These straw dolls come in different shapes and sizes according to each village, but you can see the traditional straw skills exhibited in the sandals and woven straw mat around the trunk where farmers exercise their ingenuity with straw during the agricultural off-season.
The origin of this festival probably dates back to the late Edo period. The festival has been changing, but is still continued today, demonstrating the differing festival characteristics of each village.
Shoki of each village
The doll is enshrined in a small shrine made on a mountain pass, which is an entrance to the village, where the doll can observe the entire village. The festival was discontinued in 1965, restarted in 1977 and has been held every year since then. In this village, a million-time prayer is prayed before the completed doll before enshrining it.
The doll used to be enshrined in a small shrine in the Izu Shrine compound, but was enshrined in a new building in a park in the center of the village in 2004. In this village, the chief priest of Gotoku-ji Temple recites a sutra to consecrate the completed doll and then people dance and chant a prayer to Buddha.
This village creates a male and a female doll and enshrines them in small shrines located in the upper and lower parts of the village, and replaces them in turn every year.
The doll is enshrined in a small shrine located in a village in the mountains along the Banetsu-Sai train line. In the old days they made 2 dolls and enshrined them in the upper and lower parts of the village. In this village, after the doll is enshrined, they tie a sacred straw festoon to the wooden sword used to make the doll the year before and throw the doll on a branch of a big tree.
The doll is tied with a sacred straw festoon to a big tree at the back of the shrine in the lower part of the village and enshrined there. The villagers’ work is to make a doll and enshrine it, and the Shoki chief priest performs the religious services. The production and religious services are separate.