Yokote’s Traditional Bonden Procession

ページID1006616  更新日 2022年3月10日



Yokote's Traditional Bonden Procession

On February 17, the final day of Yokote’s Winter Festival, a procession of men carrying
massive, elaborately decorated wooden staves called bonden gathers in front of Yokote
City Hall. From there, the procession makes its way 3.5 kilometers southeast, to
Asahiokayama-jinja Shrine. As the men carrying the bonden pass through the gates of
the shrine, the newcomers are pushed back by those who have already entered the
precincts. This leads to shoving matches that grow more intense as the bonden are
carried closer to the main hall. Most of the bonden, which can weigh as much as 30
kilograms, are battered and falling apart by the time they arrive. At the main hall of the
shrine, each group makes an offering of the cloth that hangs from the bonden as a prayer
for a safe and prosperous year. In exchange, participants receive a paper talisman
(ofuda) that they take back to their neighborhood or business for safekeeping.

The Bonden Competition

The day before the bonden are offered at the shrine, they are brought to the city hall to
be judged in a competition. Neighborhoods and businesses are encouraged to
participate, but they must adhere to strict guidelines in constructing the body and
decorations of their bonden. These guidelines provide details on the required height of
the wooden staff, the height of the decorations at its top, the length of the cloth that
hangs from the staff, and even the color, thickness, and direction in which the bonden’s
“headband” (hachimaki) is twisted. Although the overall structure of the bonden must
follow the guidelines, each group has some freedom of expression regarding the
decorations. Some follow a more traditional design based on zodiac animals or other
New Year’s decorations, while others opt for more modern designs based on sporting
events or fictional characters. Crowds at the Winter Festival cheer and shout when as
many as 40 different full-sized bonden are unveiled at the city office alongside
decorated bales of rice (ebisutawara) and smaller bonden created by the city’s children.

 This English-language text was created by the Japan Tourism Agency.


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