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Shujyo-onie festival in Kunisaki: Is oni, known as a demonic-cannibalistic creature, a Buddhist image in Kunisaki peninsula?

Oni is one of the symbol in Rokugou-manzan. Gomei Terada, the chief monk of Futago-ji temple, shared unexplored story of oni in Kunisaki. Masks with oni features sculpted on are preserved in many temples in Kunisaki peninsula. They had been used in Shujyo-onie festivel, a traditional ritual praying for huge harvest and good health.

“Oni in Kunisake is entirely different from any other rituals such as Setsubun. (In Setsubun, people throw beans to oni to keep the bad luck away, and bring the good luck in.)” says Terada. In Shujyo-onie festival, a very significant ritual in the area, it is believed that the principal image of each temple reveals in oni figure to bring good fortune to the visitors. Only monk of Rokugou-manzan temples or Ajari, a monk in high rank, is allowed to wear an oni mask at Shujyo-onie.

Many temples in Japan holds Shujyo-e, an annual ritual take places in the first week of January, to celebrate New Year, and pray for the national peace and huge harvest. Because oni appears in Kunisaki version, locals call it “Oni-yo”, night of oni. Shujyo-e continues throughout the night and oni shows up at midnight, at the climax of the festival, so people start to call the festival in their own dialect, Oni-yo. We can see the unique cultural development here.

We will continue to dig deeper to find out about mystery of oni in Kunisaki peninsula and Futago-ji temple.

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