In Iwate Prefecture, there are a number of festivals with the name Sominsai. The festival originates from an old legend where a god dressed as a weary traveler was looking for a place to stay one night and the villagers of Somin Shorai, though having very little themselves, treated the traveler as best they could and were later blessed with the god's protection. Ever since, temples and shrines in this area began to celebrate the Sominsai as a way to ward off epidemics.
The festivals start in January and continue until this festival, the one at Hayachine Shrine, as a season closer. Local men, in barely any clothes, gather inside the shrine grounds for a ritual to see who will be the one to obtain the Somin bag. Inside of this bag is 365 wooden pieces branded with different "Junishi," or zodiac, signs. Whoever is the one to take hold of the bag is said to be blessed with a years worth of good luck. The heated battle between local men for this bag unfolds every year.
The overwhelming and energy filled battle for the Somin bag is an absolute must. Starting in the shrine grounds, nearly naked local men scramble and fight for the holy bag as they descend down the one kilometer long Sando (sacred pathway of a shrine). The winner is the man who has a firm grasp over the mouth of the lucky bag as it passes under the large stone Torii (arch entrance) at the bottom. As long as you are male, you can participate in the Somin battle of the bag. If you have what it takes, give it a shot. Sign up is until 10:00am the day of the festival.
Please be cautious of injuries when participating in the battle.
Participants must not wear a shirt. Belts can be dangerous and are forbidden as well.
Access to Hanamaki City
JR Shin-Hanamaki Station
Address: 1-1 Uchikawame, Ohasamamachi, Hanamaki City, Iwate Prefecture
50min taxi ride from JR Shin-Hanamaki Station.
Taking the bus from the station to the venue will NOT get you there in time, so please be careful.