Hyogo: Huge Straw Sandals Ward Off Evil Spirits

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Residents tie a huge zori sandal, left, and a huge waraji sandal to sacred trees in Toyooka, Hyogo Prefecture, on Jan. 8.

TOYOOKA, Hyogo — Huge 1.5-meter-long straw sandals were offered to a local deity as part of an annual Shinto ritual praying for the health and safety of people in a mountainous area of Toyooka, Hyogo Prefecture, in early January.

“Sai-no-kami” is the local guardian deity enshrined in the city’s Tanokuchi district. The Sai-no-kami festival is held every January to ward off evil spirits by showing that there is a deity with big feet in the area. It is the custom of the district to hang a huge waraji and a huge zori on sacred trees in the festival.

Both waraji and zori are Japanese traditional sandals, but unlike zori that only have a thong, waraji also have a strap to tie around the ankle.

About 20 people gathered on the morning of Jan. 8, where they spent half a day making the huge waraji and zori sandals by bundling and weaving straw. They then carried the sandals along a snow-covered road to a small shrine at the edge of the district, where they tied them to two cedar trees.