Bonden Festival

The Bonden festival of Taiheizan-Miyoshi shrine (Akanuma, Hiro-omote, Akita City) starts on the morning of January 17 when the coldest season hits the area. It was originally a festival for men who have come of age.
Dozens of young men in hanten (a Japanese kimono-like coat) gather in each area of the town and parade through the town to the shrine. The party blows a conch shell and brandishes a “bonden” stick while singing “Miyoshi-bushi”[CLICK to Listen]. With strong shouts of “Watasha Oidara-Miyoshi-no-kodomo, Hito-ni-Oshimake Daikirai (I am the child of Oidara-Miyoshi god, I hate to be beaten by others),” the crowd of young men surges in the shrine to be the first one to see the god.
With screams and chants of “Joyasa-Joyasa,” the group squeezes into the shrine to dedicate the bonden stick for the year’s rich harvest, business prosperity, and family safety. This event is well known as “Ara-bonden (fierce bonden)” or “kenka-bonden (bonden fight),” and the bravery of this festival warms up the harsh winters of Akita.
Bonden sticks are about three meters long, and on the top of the stick is a cylindrical basket that is decorated with a large rope and colorful pieces of cloth and paper. It is thought to be prepared as a large version of a “Gohei” stick (the stick used as a place marker for the gods to arrive) so that the gods can easily find the group and bring them good luck.

Akita City Folk Performing Arts Heritage Center