Akita, Tohoku

A contest to become the first to reach the sacred mountain, carrying bonden for the gods to descend.

A bonden is a sacred wand measuring almost four meters in length, which serves as a marker for the gods descending to this world. In ancient times, bonden used to be made of paper or rice straw, but in recent years, they are often made by decorating a bamboo basket with colorful fabric. The bonden wands are carried by groups of children, townspeople, or even company employees. Each group entrusts the bonden with their prayers for an abundant harvest, good health for their families and success in business.

Although this festival is held in all parts of Akita Prefecture, the festival at this shrine on Mt. Taiheizan (1,171 meters above sea level), the symbol of Akita City, becomes particularly heated. Men race to the shrine to become the first to make offerings of bonden. They even start hustling, jostling and grappling with one another rather violently, which explains why it is also called “Bonden fighting.” The excitement reaches its peak around noon.

There are various interpretations of this contest, yet the wish to finish first probably stems from the natural desire to be the first to be blessed with divine powers, especially as this festival is held in the New Year. Moreover, the patron deity of Miyoshi Jinja is a god of power, so the fiercer the struggle, the more blessed the participants will be in divine power, which explains the intensity of the struggle.

In addition, the onlookers push forward to touch the triangular charms hanging from the bonden and filled with divine power. This makes the festival even more intense. Dedicated to the shrine, the bonden wands are neatly placed in the snow-covered precincts, making a fine spectacle. In former times, the bonden wands were offered to the inner shrine standing on the Taiheizan mountain top.


[Car]Six minutes by taxi from the East Exit of Akita Station.Or 2 minutes' walk from Miyoshi-Jinja Iriguchi bus stop on the Akita Chuo Kotsu Bus Taiheisen route from the East Exit of Akita Station.
Taiheizan Miyoshi Jinja Shrine, Akita
January 17th
Dates and functions are subjects to change without notice. Be sure to check the latest information in advance.
Akanuma, Akita City

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