Shimane: Gacchi Festival back again in Matsue after coronavirus cancellations

The Yomiuri Shimbun
People playing Gacchi emissaries parade through the Nonami district in Matsue carrying purifying rice straw sticks.

MATSUE — The Gacchi Festival, which began over 100 years ago, was held on Oct. 23 in the Nonami district of Matsue for the first time since 2019, after being canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

According to local residents, the festival is held annually to return the deity of Hiyoshi Shrine to its original location. The deity is currently revered at Hinomisaki Shrine in the same district after the shrines merged in 1909. The Gacchi are emissaries who have the role of parading along and purifying the 600-meter pathway from Hinomisaki Shrine to where Hiyoshi Shrine once stood.

During the festival, eerie voices emitted by the Gacchi echoed throughout the district. The Gacchi were played by about 30 people dressed in white and wearing lion masks as well as long-nosed mythical tengu masks.

The Gacchi emissaries held sticks woven with mochi rice straw, believed to have the power to shake off misfortune. It is said that if people are struck with the stick, they will be blessed with good health. Once the Gacchi see any local residents as they parade through the district, they approach and tap them on the buttocks and thighs with the sticks.

This year, dozens of parents and their children waited in front of the torii gate of Hinomisaki Shrine for the Gacchi to appear. When they finally came out, some of the children ran away crying at the sight of the scary-looking emissaries.