What is “Bonden”?
Bonden is a sacred object which attracts or summons divine spirits. It looks like a bamboo wand measuring about 3 meters with a bamboo basket on the top. Bonden is usually decorated with fabric, paper, and talismans. In the olden days, people used to decorate them with materials such as rice, coins, and Japan’s traditional paper and fabric, but nowadays, plastic tapes and ordinary paper seem to replace the former ones, allowing Bondens to be more colorful and creative. The design varies from the very traditional design with ears of rice and coins, to the unique ones that describe the creators or particular organizations. It has a role as a ritual tool which purifies the town and the roads to the Shrine.“Fierce” ritual of Miyoshi Head Shrine
Miyoshi Bonden Festival is held on January 17th each year. Its main purpose is to wish for good harvest, health, and success in business. Although there are several other Bonden festival in Akita, this Miyoshi Bonden is the largest one with more than 80 Bondens involved. Participants varies from local sports team wishing for more victories to corporations hoping to be more prosperous. During the festival, all of the organizations and groups head to Miyoshi Shrine holding up their own Bondens to get them blessed by the divine, while also trying to obstruct others doing the same. Heat of the festival explodes around 10:30 a.m. to noon, when the festival becomes fiercer and fiercer as they get closer to the Shrine. In order to be the first one to get blessed with the divine power, people start pushing and shoving each other rather aggressively, which is why this festival is nicknamed the “Bonden Fight.” Miyoshi Bonden Festival is known as one of Akita’s biggest winter events, where the teams and audience all share this exciting moment in the snow and cold.Why do they fight?
Miyoshi Shrine enshrines the goddess of power and game. Therefore, it is believed that the more aggressive the competition gets, the more blessings would be given to the participants. Also, the participants’ strong desire to be the first one to be filled with the goddess’ power and strengthen their bodies and minds, and the audience’s wish to get the blessed talismans stuck on the Bonden, are surely another reason for people’s fighting spirit. Miyoshi Bonden, in this way, is a festival filled with people’s energy, heat, and excitement.About Miyoshi Shrine
Miyoshi Shrine was built in March, 673. At that time, it was largely worshiped by people as a goddess of power and game, and it is said that the 50th Emperor once visited the shrine to wish for victory against his enemy in 801. Where the Bonden festival takes place is called Miyoshi “Head” Shrine, which is the head of all Miyoshi-related Shrines spread throughout Japan as well as in Brazil, Sa Paulo. It has been popular among local people with the nickname “Miyoshi-san” and “Sankichi-san”. Every year, many visitors from all parts of the country come to this Miyoshi Head Shrine to worship the divine.