Summer In Kawagoe, Japan's "Little Edo" City


From June 30 to July 10, visitors to the lovely "Little Edo" city Kawagoe (population a bit over 353,000) just a half hour north of Tokyo in Saitama Prefecture, can experience Chinowa Kuguri. This Shinto ritual, held at Kawagoe Hachimangu Shrine, began in the early Edo period (1603-1867) with the intention of warding off plagues and promoting disease-free breathing. A perfect event for an era with Covid, the liturgy, also known as Nagoshi no Harae ("summer passing purification ceremony"), allows for personal illnesses and misery to be transferred to a katashiro (alter image). Individuals write their names and ages on this paper doll image, which has been purified by the priests and then, in a figure-eight pattern, walk through a large grass ring of about 2.5 meters (just over eight feet) diameter called Chinowa. Next they proceed to the front of the main shrine and offer the Katashiro to the deity, who will take care of medical and even emotional misfortunes by transferring the evil spirits from the New Year to the Katashiro for the next six months. The idea is to ensure a family's health through the difficult, hot summer by permitting the body and mind to be reborn in a new and clean manner.

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