Winter

New Year Grand Festival at Toka Ebisu Shrine 2019 – Start a Year at a Fair

Maishim

Writer

The Shogatsu Omaturi (正月大祭り) or New Year Grand Festival at Toka Ebisu Shrine (十日恵比須神社) has been one of the most popular events among locals and also tourists traveling in the Kyushu area of Japan around New Year. This festival is dedicated to 2 Gods named ‘恵比寿様 (Ebisu-sama)’ and ‘大黒様 (Daikoku-sama)’, who are members of ‘七福神 (Shichifukujin) the seven Gods of fortune.

Welcoming New Year means a lot to Japanese people and especially to those who run their own business. And Toka Ebisu shrine is believed to bring good luck to businesses as well as health, wealth, and prosperity. You will see a lot of corporate executives visiting there and praying for their business prosperity in the next year. It’s is something you might not be able to see at other shrines in such scale.

History of the Shrine

According to the records, back in 1951, a retired general – Goemon (五右衛門) found a Buddha sculpture on the way back from his trip to a shrine. The man brought the sculpture back to his place and built this Toka Ebisu shrine and enshrined the sculpture in 1952. It is not very common for a shrine to worship both Ebisu and Daikoku together. Toka Ebisu shrine received Daikoku sama from Izumo Grand Shrine in Shimane Prefecture, one of the most ancient and important shrines in Japan, and enshrined it.

Things to See at the Festival

Kaiun Oza (開運御座)

Kaiun Oza is a ceremony to celebrate and pray for the coming year to be good. At the ceremony, people wear Haku Chou (白丁) which looks like a white thin vest. Also, you will notice how participants have a meal called Naorahizen (直会膳) that includes various ingredients that bring luck. The ceremony is closed when everyone claps their hands once at the same time.

Fukubiki (福引き)

During the festival, you can join Fukubikievent. 福 (fuku) means fortune and 引き (biki) means drawing. At Fukubiki you play a lottery and can win some good luck items. Some items are thought to be super lucky and if you draw that item, they will announce it loudly.

Here are some items that you can get:
*打ち出の小槌(Uchide no kozuchi)a lucky hammer similar to a magic bullet or a mallet of luck. It is a mythical item that brings a lot of money to those who use it.
*熊手 (Kuma de) a rake. This rake looks like Hawk claw catching a big prey.
*そろばん (Soroban) abacus. In old Japan, people used to use an abacus to calculate. It is a representative of the traditional business in Japan.
*千両箱(Senryo bako)a luck piggy bank. Senryo means a lot of gold coins in old Japanese.

Things to Do at the Festival

If you look forward to bringing some souvenirs back to your country, you would absolutely love the Fukubiki where you can get some fortune items for the New Year. When you are about to try Fukubiki, you will feel the excitement of the place and timing with your six senses! However, you might need to wait in line for a couple of hours, but the gift and the experience absolutely worth it. It is also a good chance to take a lot of pictures while you wait. If you want to avoid waiting that long, I suggest you arrive at the shrine as early as possible.

To feel the essence of traditional Japanese shrine culture, be sure to join Kaiun Oza ceremony. It takes place from 9th to 10th of January and you will actually be wearing something traditional during the ceremony which lasts for an hour. Though you might not be able to get the idea of what is going on since it is conducted all in Japanese, everything will seem new and interesting to you for sure. And not all the shrines have this style of ceremony, so this is also something that you can only see and feel at Toka Ebisu shrine at this time of the year. If you are around, Why not?

Festival Breakdown

This festival last for four days. For the whole festival, you can pray at the shrine, join Fukubiki and enjoy a lot of kinds of food from over 300 food stalls.

First day (8th January)

The first day is called Hatsu Ebisu (初えびす)
There a lot of people visiting the shrine. As this is the first day of the festival, people mainly come to pray and enjoy the festive atmosphere

Second day (9th January)

The second day is called Yoi Ebisu (宵えびす)
You will witness Kachi Mairi (徒歩詣り) which means visiting the shrine on foot. This is one of the traditional annual events of the Hakata area. A group of women in a black kimono with the traditional hairstyle and gold hair accessories appear and walk to the shrine. As they walk, they also play music with Taiko drums, Japanese flutes, and shamisen instruments. This is one of the liveliest events during the festival attracting a lot of spectators.

Also, from the second day to the third day, Kaiun Oza ceremony takes place. A lot of noble people and shrine-related people join the event. Ordinary people are also allowed to join the event. (Ceremony fee: 5000 Yen or more per person).

Third day (10th January)

The third day is called Sei Taisai (正大祭)
This third day is the most lively and crowded day of the festival since it is the last day to join Kaiun Oza. Besides, you will have a chance to see a dance of Toka Ebisu at Fujima Ensai-sha around 12:00.

The last day (11th January)

The last day is called Nokori Ebisu (残りえびす)
Throughout the day, people come and visit the shrine to give final prays. The Fukubiki lottery will last till the afternoon unless they run out of items.

Details and Access

Dates: January 8th to January 11th, 2019. Takes place on the same dates every year.

Brief Schedule:

January 8th
Ceremony 8:00 am – 9:30 pm
Tea ceremony 8:00 am – 9:30 pm (during the ceremony)
Fukubiki 10:00 am – 11:00 pm
Prayer 10:00 am – 11:00 pm

January 9th
Ceremony 8:30 am – 9:00 pm
Kaiun Oza ceremony 10:00 am – 0:00 am
Fukubiki 9:00 am – 6:00 pm
Prayer 9:00 am – 0:00 am
Kachi Mairi – arrival 3:00 pm

January 10th
Ceremony 8:30 am – 9:00 pm
Kaiun Oza 10:00 am – 0:00 am
Fukubiki 6:00 am – 1:00 am
Prayer 9:00 am – 0:00 am

January 11th
Ceremony 8:30 am- 9:00 pm
Fukubiki 9:00 am – 2:00 pm
Prayer 9:00 am – 9:00 pm

Place: Toka Ebisu Shrine

Address: Higashi Koen 7-1, Hakata-ku, Hakata-city

Official Website (Japanese only): http://www.tooka-ebisu.or.jp/index.html

Access:

Train: 5-minute walk from Yoshizuka station
Subway: 5-minute walk from Chiyokenchoguchi station
Car: 10-minute drive from Hakata station
*No free parking space at the shrine

Closing Remarks

In all countries, welcoming a new year is a big deal, and so is Japan and in Fukuoka especially. Osaka is a famous place that historically attracted merchants, however, Fukuoka is not a less popular city that developed its business in a prosperous way. The excitement you will feel here is somewhat similar to of the one in Osaka. If you would like to see more Toka Ebisu festivals, the Horikawa Ebisu Shrine Toka Ebisu Festival and Toka Ebisu Festival in Imamiya Ebisu Shrine are exciting indeed. If you have a chance, I strongly recommend you visit it too.

Similar festivals take place in many shrines all over Japan, especially in the Kansai area and Kyushu. Toka Ebisu Festival Imamiya Ebisu Shrine in Osaka and Toka Ebisu Festival at Horikawa Ebisu Shrine in Osaka are the most popular of them. These festivals take place around the same time, so I recommend you visit and compare it!

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Maishim

I’m Mai from Nagoya. I am a food tourist so wherever I go, I eat. I speak Japanese, English, and a little Korean!

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