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Running with Babies

Wednesday, February 9, 2005 Posted: 12:25 PM JST

On Friday February 11 a unique festival is held at my friend's shrine in Sumoto on Awaji island. Fathers race with their three-year-old children in their arms between two shrines in their little fishing village. Occasionally, kids are dropped.

Long ago, there was no custom to have wedding ceremonies, and the arrival of babies, its is said, was announced at the Neriko Festival. Nowadays, this is a festival to wish for children's health.

In the tiny fishing village of Yura, near Sumoto on the island of Awaji, a curious Neriko Festival custom has survived. When the children turn three, the parents bring them to Yura Minato shrine and then run for 700 meters to Wakamiya Ebisu shrine. They carry the kimono-wrapped children on their backs or hold them under their arms.

Naturally, some children get really scared of the whole affair and cry or scream, but most seem to somehow enjoy all the excitement. Sometimes children are dropped, but the priest of Yura, who happens to be a good friend of mine, assures me that no child ever got seriously injured. At that age their limbs are still like rubber it seems...

The father/child combination who arrives first is considered lucky. Let some luck rub off on you and watch them race this Friday February 11!

WHERE: Yura Minato shrine, Sumoto
PHONE: 0799-27-0562 (Yura Minato shrine)
ACCESS: By bus to Sumoto, then by taxi to Yura

Keywords: culture_news travel_news

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The now legendary Sir Ernest Mason Satow (1843-1929) was a member of the British legation in Tokyo for twenty-one years. This classic book is based on the author's detailed diary, personal encounters, and keen memory. In it, Satow records the history of the critical years of social and political upheaval that accompanied Japan's first encounters with the West around the time of the Meiji Restoration. Fascinating.
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