Kebesu Festival


Kebesu festival (kebesu sai)

***** Location: Kunisaki Peninsula, Oita
***** Season: Late Autumn
***** Category: Observance


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Kebesu Festival is a fire festival held at
Iwakura Hachiman Shrine in Kunimi-machi,
Kunisaki City, Oita Pref. on October 14.

The origin of the word “kebesu” is not clear; some say it comes from a phrase in a norito (Shinto prayer) referring to “a boy who kicks fire.”Other say it is a local pronounciation of the deity Ebisu.

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On the festival night, the “Kebesu,” who is wearing a grotesque mask, walks around the precinct, hitting the stick called “Samasuta” with a fan and dashes toward the holy bonfire. Then some men called “Toba トウバ” in white costume try to guard the fire and repeatedly fight with Kebesu for fire. Toba run after the spectators with burning fern in their hands. It is said that if the sparks fall on you, you will be good in health throughout the year.

The festival is designated as a prefecture’s Intangible Folk Cultural Property.
This is one of the few unique festivals in Japan.

source : nippon-kichi.jp

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Before participating in the festival, all menfolk clad in white walk to the sea shore and take a purifying dip in the cold water.

The man performing the KEBESU of this year puts on a mask and then the priest of the shrine makes the sign of kebes on the back of the kneeling person, to put the deity inside his human body.
After the festival, kebesu kneels again and the priest writes the word MAN on his back.

It is a great honour to be choosen as the kebesu of the year.


Kebesu Matsuri ケベス祭り

Worldwide use

Things found on the way

kunimi 国見 "looking at the country"
There are many places with this part in the name.
My favorite is Kunimi Onsen hot spring in Iwate.

It goes back to olden times, when the local priest-shaman went to the top of a nearby hill and looked down to foretell the events and the harvest for the coming year. By looking at the cherry trees and buds and praying to them, he could make predictions about the harvest. This is one of the sources of the cherry-blossom activities in Japan.


Kebesu festival -
the sparks fall out
of my TV screen

Gabi Greve

Related words

***** Fire festivals, fire ceremonies
(hi matsuri 火祭り)

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Unknown said...

Wonderful festival!
but it is too cold to enjoy it.


Gabi Greve said...

Hi Sakuo san,
cold indeed !
Keep warm !