Ritual at Yamagata Resort Thanks ‘God of Hot Springs’

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Mikoshi float bearers are doused with hot spring water in the village of Okura, Yamagata Prefecture, on July 14.

OKURA, Yamagata — Commemorating the discovery of certain hot springs, the Hijiori Kaito Sai (Hijiori Hot Springs Opening Festival) was held on July 14 at the Hijiori hot spring resort in the village of Okura in Yamagata Prefecture. The event attracted more than 100 local residents and tourists who gave thanks to the “god of hot springs” and wished for the development of the area.

The Hijiori hot springs are said to have been discovered on July 14, 807. Following the ritual ceremony, about 10 local residents clad in white carried two mikoshi portable shrines — one with a male jizo stone statue and the other a female jizo — through the resort for about 500 meters.

Tourists and local children who gathered along the street used buckets and ladles to vigorously pour hot spring water over the jizo and the bearers, praying for the development of the community and good health.

This year, for the first time in four years, the festival recruited nonresidents to be bearers.

“It was an honor to participate in the festival and pray for the development of Hijiori Onsen together with local residents,” said a 39-year-old man from the city of Yamagata who works for the tourism industry. “I was soaking wet and a little cold, but it was fun.”