Apr. 04, 2017 UPDATE

A “cool” Mitarashi Festival – this is how we welcome summer in Kyoto!

The summer in Kyoto is hot, but you can cool down at the Mitarashi Festival and experience the rituals with a can of beer in one hand and a dumpling in the other.
Shiho[ Sharing Kyoto Staff ]

There are many festivals in Kyoto that have an unbroken history from hundreds, even thousands of years ago. Gion, Aoi, Jidai festivals are all famous and everyone who lives in Kyoto knows them. But most festivals can only be viewed, not participated in. Not being able to take part in the rituals, some of us will feel a little left out, won’t we?


But wait! There are festivals in Kyoto where you can personally take part in the exciting festival rituals! Today we are going to introduce one of those festivals, the Mitarashi Festival, held at the Shimogamo Shrine in July. Since it is one of the most refreshingly cool and exciting festivals in Kyoto, everyone from Sharing Kyoto went there! It really was a lot of fun.


▼Click here for more details about the event

http://sharing-kyoto.com/event_mitarashi_festival/



What is Mitarashi Festival?


The Mitarashi festival is one of the seasonal events of Kyoto. It is popular with the locals and there are many stalls selling food and sweets. It has the quintessential Japanese festival, matsuri, atmosphere.


In this festival, you can steep your feet in the Mitarashi pond and pray for good health. Shimogamo Shrine, a world heritage site where you can steep your feet in a pond. This sounds like something worth finding out about!



This time it is the six of us going to the Mitarashi festival. You might have seen us before on this site! We will initiate you into the ways of enjoying this special festival. We will tell you three tips to enjoy the festival, and three things you should challenge yourself to try.


Ok, now it’s time to go to the festival!


18:00 Arrival at the Mitarashi festival grounds at Shimogamo Shrine



We arrive at the Kawai Shrine, a smaller shrine within the grounds of the Shimogamo Shrine. After this torii gate is the sacred grove of Tadasu no Mori, the “Forest of Correction”. Even in front of this Forest of Correction, Shiho cannot hide her excitement for the festival about to begin!



This a path going through the Tadasu no Mori grove. There are already tens of stalls selling fried chicken, french fries and beer. But we don’t have time for treats yet! Our goal is up ahead so we must have patience. Time to keep on going!



Oh! What’s this! Shiho quietly stayed behind to buy something! Shiho got some mochi rice cakes for herself before we even got to our destination.



Shiho bought some mochi rice cakes called mamedaifuku from a long established mocha store called Demachi Futaba. This mochi store is famous through Kyoto and they have a stall on the Shimogawa Shrine grounds only on during the Mitarashi festival. The mochi were delicious and we recommend you try them!



Shiho shared the mochi she bought with everyone from Sharing Kyoto. They were yummy! Inside the sticky, soft, and spongy mochi is a generous amount of koshian strained bean paste, plus there are whole beans that work as a great accent to it all. We can’t get enough of mamedaifuku mochi!



After all passing all these temptations, we are finally at the entrance of the Shimogamo Shrine! There are already many people inside the shrine.


19:00 Time to step into the Mitarashi pond!



All of us from Sharing Kyoto are really excited to finally be here! Time to go into the pond! Before going into the pond we line up at the reception. At the reception we pay the entrance fee and receive a candle each to offer at the altar.  From here on, you have to take off your shoes! Get a free plastic bag for your shoes and carry them with you. We recommend you wear shoes that are easy to take off or just wear sandals.



Lately many foreigners take part so there is an explanation in English of how to enjoy the festival. This will make the festival much easier to understand!



Now, we have taken off our shoes and received our candles, our preparations are complete! Time to step into the pond! With pounding hearts we approach the pond…



Even though it is the middle of summer, the temperature of the pond is only 15 degrees Celcius/59 degrees Fahrenheit! Even though it is the middle of summer and humid and hot, all of us from Sharing Kyoto are surprised by the coldness of the water. We can hear shouts of “It’s really cold!” all around us. We think you can get a good approximation of how cold it was from this look on Miya’s face.



Already there are really many people in the pond!


Just a word of warning, in the middle of the pond the water will come up to your waist. So those of you going with children need to be careful here!


This You Have to Try: 1. Offer a Candle at the Altar!



The first thing we from Sharing Kyoto would like you to do to enjoy the festival to the fullest is this: Light up the candle you received at the reception and offer it at the altar while praying for good health!



After passing the bridge at the entrance to the Mitarashi pond there is a miniature shrine where you can light the candle. Holding the lit candle, walk through the pond to the altar.



Take the candle off the bamboo skewer and gently leave it on the altar. Here you should hold your hands together and pray for good health. The god enshrined here is said to purify you from guilt and shame.



After the foot-steeping ritual, it is time get out of the pond, dry your feet with a towel and put on your shoes. We recommend you bring a reasonably sized towel with you.


This You Have to Try: 2. Cleanse yourself from inside by drinking sacred water!



Our tip number two: after steeping your feet in the Mitarashi pond and praying for good health have a cup of sacred water and cleanse your body from inside!



It is said that by drinking this water you receive the gifts of good health and longevity. Of course all of us from Sharing Kyoto had some sacred water! Cheers!



By the way, you can also take some sacred water home!


If you bring a plastic bottle or a flash the festival staff will fill it up for free, so if you want to enjoy the Mitarashi festival to the fullest remember to bring a plastic bottle with you!


Try This If You Have Time: 2. Write Your Name on a Foot-shaped Amulet!



Sharing Kyoto tip number three: if you have time, write your name and age on a foot-shaped  wooden block and put it in the box full of water in front of the shrine while praying for good health and healthy feet for walking.


Erika wrote her family members’ names and ages while Shiho wrote Sharing Kyoto and the site’s age!



Right next to the place where you can receive sacred water there is a place selling foot-shaped amulets. There are not many places in Japan selling foot-shaped amulets, and besides, they are cute!



After you finish writing the amulet, there is a box full of water where you can gently leave your foot-amulet to float.



Then we get in front of the main shrine. Here you can of course pray for good health, but you can also pray for your family’s safety, longevity, and your life goals to realize, so you may pray for many things here. It is important to put your heart into the prayers!




After the main parts of the festival, the steeping of feet in the Mitarashi pond and the purification through sacred water, have ended it is time to end the first part of the report.


There is a second part to this report where we have tips for you to enjoy the festival. We hope you also read part two!


▼Click here for Part2
http://sharing-kyoto.com/Blog/b_Mitarashi_Matsuri_Festival_Part2/

A comment from the staff
Erika
I was surprised by how cold the water of the Mitarashi pond really was! It was my first time to offer a candle at the altar so that was a novel experience for me. In part two, we have information about the food stalls and the customary fortune slips for you to enjoy!
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