Winter Festivals (冬祭り)

Winter festivals are the festivals celebrated during the winter
Winter festivals often indicate the festivals celebrated during the three months (November, December and January) from ritto (the first day of winter in the Japanese calendar) through risshun (the first day of spring in the Japanese calendar).

Winter festivals have both the elements of the harvest festival that autumn festivals have and the elements of the Kinen-sai festival (prayer service for a good crop) that spring festivals have. However, the position of the winter festivals in the annual festivals are unclear. Originally, as October (in the old lunar calendar) was supposed to be a taboo month, the harvest festival was celebrated in November (in the old lunar calendar) when the season changes from autumn to winter in the Japanese calendar. And it is said that later the taboo lost its meaning and the autumn festivals came to be celebrated just after harvesting. Shinobu ORIGUCHI perceived the period which is from autumn through the next spring as the period that all souls including the ones of human beings are renewed by holding the ceremony of tamafuri (shaking of souls). And he claimed that autumn festivals, winter festivals and spring festivals were originally a series of festivals (harvest, renewal of souls and prayer for a good crop), and then autumn festivals and spring festivals were separated, and the rest became winter festivals. In addition, Kunio YANAGITA claimed that, in Japanese festivals, November in the old lunar calendar was regarded as important because November when the most winter festivals were cerebrated includes the winter solstice and it indicates the turning point going towards spring. In Shiji-sai festivals (festivals of four seasons) of jingikan (officer of the institution for dedicating to religious ceremony) in the Imperial Court, the festivals of Ainame (the festival offering newly-harvested grains to deities), Tamashizume (mass or ceremony for the repose of a soul) and Niiname (festival of consumption of the new grains) in November in the old lunar calendar were defined as winter festivals. Though the festivals of Tsukinami (festival of the months), Chinka (fire prevention festival) and Michiae (banquet of the road) in December were not peculiar to winter, they were celebrated as winter festivals.

Nowadays, the festivals celebrated as winter festivals are the ones that still include the elements of the Tamashizume no matsuri festival (mass or ceremony for the repose of a soul). And in the winter festivals of the present day, yudate or boiling water kagura (sacred music and dancing performed at shrine) whose origin dates back to shimotsuki kagura (November kagura) is often performed at the Tamashizume no matsuri festival.