Katori Jingu, a shrine located in the Tone-riverside rice production district in Katori city, Chiba Prefecture, holds “otaue matsuri,” or rice-planting festival annually in early April to pray for a good harvest in fall. Several rituals are conducted by local farmers and children including a group of women wearing decorated traditional farmers’ hats to gorgeously announce that the rice planting season is approaching.
The festival is held on the first Saturday and Sunday of April every year. This year’s plowing ceremony was held on April 1 in the shrine and the planting ceremony on April 2 at the shrine rice paddy.
On April 1, the plowing ceremony began at 1:00 in the afternoon, when a group of “saotome teshiro,” rice-planting maidens in kimonos, and children holding rice seedlings solemnly entered the shrine. A sequence of performances that replicates the first rice planting of the year and a whole rice production processes took place in front of the shrine main building.
The next day, the ceremony began with the rituals in the shrine, followed by a parade of approximately 100 people down to the shrine rice paddy. At the paddy, the chief priest of the shinto shrine gave prayers and the rice
planting maidens planted the seedlings of approximately 15 centimeters tall, along with rice-planting songs.
The shrine is the head shrine of Katori shrines around the country. It’s not known exactly when the festival was started but there are some records to tell that the festival can date back 600 years to the Muromachi era. The historical festival attracted approximately 1,000 keen visitors this year.