A 1000-year-old tradition comes to an end.

Another one of Japan’s traditional festivals has disappeared…

Somin-sai festival of Oshu City in Iwate prefecture, had continued for 1000 years.

The festival is held in conjunction with the Lunar New Year, and in it, men wearing only a “fundoshi” (traditional loincloth) compete for a gunny sack containing a talisman, the “sominbukuro”. The festival is held to pray for good health and a good harvest, and the winner is the last person to hold the mouth part of the gunny sack.

The winner is said to receive the boon of a good harvest for not only his home, but everyone situated in the cardinal direction pointing towards his residence from the temple. The burlap sacks also contain wood used for prayers at the temple, and so possessing that will bring you good fortune.

It is midwinter in Oshu City, and the temperature at night is below O℃, but the heat from the half-naked men is so hot that steam rises. This truly is a man’s festival.


This year, this festival, which was put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, was revived after four years. However, instead of an all-night event, which was difficult to prepare for, it was revived as a time-limited version, from 6pm to 11pm.

However, this also came to an end this year. Although the festival has been a tradition for more than 1,000 years, the reality was that there were not enough young people to continue it, so it is no longer viable as an event.


The population of Oshu City peaked at 130,000 in 1995 and continues to shrink. It now stands at 86,000 people with an increasing number of elderly people and a sharp decline in the number of young people. It is thought that the population will be around 60,000 by 2060 if the trend continues.


There are many unique and unusual festivals in Japan’s regional cities. However, due to the declining population in these areas, there is the possibility that these traditions will not be passed on to future generations.


To everyone who is interested in Japanese traditions,

If you don’t see a festival now, you may find that it is gone next year. Now is your chance!

Come and visit Japan soon!


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