Oiso Sagicho Bonfire - Every year in mid January, a festival is held at Oiso Beach called Sagicho. Originally, local fishermen organized this event and tradition. Sagicho has been observed for over 400 years and has been designated as Japan’s national intangible treasures or officially Significant Intangible Folk Cultural Asset. The Oiso no Sagicho is a Dosojin or a travelers' guardian deity fire matsuri. Used shinto Japanese New Year decorations are turned into burnable artistic looking cones on the beach, and when the sun goes down, the bonfires are lit. Many local children participate by roasting dango, small glutinous rice cakes. Dango is eaten with the hopes of good health for the upcoming year. From each group gathered around its respective bonfire, several men wear traditional loincloths and plunge into the frigid ocean. Straw cone shaped structures called Saito are built on the beach using pine, bamboo and New Year decorations. These are turned into bonfires and provide some warmth for the participants and spectators. This event is held during Koshogatsu, or Little New Year, the 15th of January. Usually New Year decorations are taken down and burnt at the local Shinto shrine though Oiso is famous for burning them on the beach, with additional rituals associated with Koshogatsu.
- ©John Lander
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