Old kumade rakes are burned to mark the end of their sacred role

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Prof. Naoyuki Ogawa

Updated on Dec 13 2016

Foreign students of Kokugakuin University visit the tori-no-ichi fair at Hanazono Shrine in Shinjuku, Tokyo, on Nov. 11, the first day of the rooster that month.


Q.Why are old kumade rakes brought back to shrines?What happens to them then?

A.Old kumade rakes are burned to mark the end of their sacred role

 Kumade are highly decorated ceremonial bamboo rakes that are sold at tori-no-ichi open-air fairs on the days of the tori, or rooster, in November. Tori days occur every 12 days throughout the year, but those in November are regarded as special: an occasion to pray for another year of fertility just after the end of the year’s harvest. Kumade means “bear’s hand” and refers to good-luck rakes because people want to “rake in as much wealth and good fortune as possible.”

 Tori-no-ichi fairs are held at a group of shrines — headed by Otori Grand Shrine in Sakai, Osaka Prefecture — and temples in many parts of Japan. However, the fairs held in and around Tokyo also have a long history, with one in Asakusa, Taito Ward, being the most famous of all.

 Tori-no-ichi fairs emerged in the first half of the 18th century in some towns in Edo (now Tokyo) and became particularly popular in the latter half of the century. Edo residents bought kumade to express their thanks for the year’s harvest and their wishes for good luck and prosperity in the coming year. The tradition continues today.

 People who keep kumade in their office or home for one year customarily bring old ones back to the same fairs and purchase new ones — usually bigger ones to rake in more wealth and good fortune. Old kumade rakes are collectively burned in otakiage burning rites to enable them to end their yearlong role in a sacred state.


published in The Japan News on 13/12/2016

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