In the Tone River area, every summer in just a few towns acrobats perform a curious centuries-old ritual that is sure to astound locals and visitors alike. This is Tsukumai, a rite meant to invite rains to bless agriculture.
Noda City begins its summer festival season in the city center with this acrobat dance ritual. In the evening, participants assemble at Atago Shrine for a blessing, and then proceed to the parking lot at Kikkoman headquarters. Here, a tall pole is prepared, and costumed acrobats climb the pole, perform a ritual firing arrows, do some amazing moves, and slide down a rope from the pillar to conclude the rite.
Long before the Tone and Edo Rivers were tamed, the courses were unpredictable and caused feast and famine. The performers wear distinctive costumes and frog masks on their heads said to harken back to a legend of a giant frog who swallowed flood waters, and gushed water in droughts. This spectacular rite remembers those times and the legendary creature.
Was this article helpful?
You will see many of my stories on Japan Travel are about places and events outside of big city centers and tourist destinations. While I highly recommend the big name sights and experiences, I encourage visitors to see and feel the atmosphere off the beaten path, too.