Agata-matsuri Festival (県祭り)

The Agata-matsuri Festival is held on June 5 and 6 every year in Uji City, Kyoto Prefecture.

It is held at Agata-jinja Shrine located 100 meters away from the south gate of the Uji Byodoin Temple. In the middle of the night on June 5, a ceremony called Bonten togyo (Brahma-Deva imperial procession) takes place in the dark, where men in the village carry mikoshi (portable shrine carried in festivals) called Bonten. While this mikoshi passes through, houses turn off their lights to welcome it; thus the festival is called "Kurayami no Kisai (Strange Festival of Darkness)." The Agata-jinja Shrine enshrines a deity called Princess Konohanasakuya, a guardian deity for safe delivery and childbirth. The festival lasts until 10 p.m. on June 5 and has night stalls.

It was once held on May 15 based on the old lunar calendar and known as the "Ginkan-matsuri Festival."

A large tree was cut into a length of several shaku (unit of distance approximately equal to 30.3 cm) to have a shade on its cut end, being carried upright with chants "ginkari" and "oginkari."

Supposedly, it represented a member of the enshrined deity Dokyo.

The festival was also commonly known as the "Tane morai-matsuri Festival."

While the houses turned off the lights, many men and women from around the country slept bundled together in small inns and private houses, where unknown men and women contacted each other. If a woman got pregnant, it was said that she was blessed with a child by the deity.

Some say that the festival originated from Michiae-matsuri Festival (or Dokyosai (道饗祭)), and as Dokyo(道饗) and Dokyo(道鏡, deity) were pronounced the same way, Dokyo was associated with the above-described sexual event, thus being regarded as an enshrined deity.

[Original Japanese]