Grooms Hit With Cold Water in Niigata Festival

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A groom is doused with cold water in Uonuma, Niigata Prefecture, on Saturday.

NIIGATA ― An unusual festival called “Secchu Hanamizuiwai,” in which new grooms are doused with cold water called “Hanamizu,” took place on Saturday in Uonuma, Niigata Prefecture.

The festival is held during the extremely cold winter season as grooms offer prayers to have their new families be blessed with children.

It is a traditional event from the Edo period (1603-1867) that was revived by local residents in 1988 after being temporarily discontinued during the Meiji period (1868-1912).

This year, the festival was back to full-fledged activities for the first time in three years, having had limitations because of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Eleven recently married men participated.

The main event features shirtless grooms — down on all fours on a snowy stage set up on the grounds of the shrine — taking turns being doused all at once over the head with water from multiple handbaskets.

The audience applauded as the groom clenched his teeth and braved the cold.

“It was colder than I expected, but I had a feeling of happiness and enjoyed it,” said a 39-year-old man born in Uonuma who was wed in July last year.