Japanese calligraphy by Hiromi Shinozaki.
The Yoi-Matsuri ceremony, the night before the Aofushigaki Ritual at Miho Shrine. The man responsible for the lantern touch keeps the fire alive during the ceremony.
Night scene at Miho Shrine.
Kannushi (Shinto priest) hold the Yoi-Matsuri ceremony the night before the Aofushigaki Ritual.
Zouri sandals lined up inside the shrine.
Ms. Yanai worships at the Aofushigaki Ritual every year.
Ms. Yonehara prepares Ondo and Tomodo girls for the ritual in the morning.
Surrounded by the rich forest of the Shimane Peninsula and overlooking Miho Bay, Miho Shrine is the head of more than 3,000 dedicated to Ebisu, divinity of the sea, merchants and music.
This small town of Mihonoseki is home to many rituals. Two of the most important ones are based on stories in the Kojiki (“Record of Ancient Matters”), the oldest existing record of Japanese mythology.
Two Toya (a person who serves god) sit in front of the altar.
Hina-ningyō (雛人形), a set of ornamental dolls that represents the Emperor and Empress in traditional costumes of the Heian period, is displayed at a ryokan hotel in Mihonoseki. It is for Hina-matsuri (雛祭り), also called Girl’s Day in Japan—a celebration to pray for the health and happiness of young girls on March 3rd.
Ondo (left) and Tomodo (right) girls sit in front of the altar during the Aofushigaki Ritual.
Food served for worshippers is lined up in the kitchen on the day of the ritual.
Sasara boy in the Aofushigaki Ritual.
Ujiko people during the Aofushigaki Ritual. Ujiko are dedicated to the belief in and worship of the shrine and they play a crucial part in the rituals at Miho Shrine. This status has been passed down through the generations for hundreds of years.
Hideki Yukawa’s Haiku (Japanese poetry) appears on a shoji door at a ryokan hotel in Mihonoseki. Hideki Yukawa is Japan’s first Nobel laureate.
Boubana women during the ritual.
A demon mask watches over the Miho Shrine.
Tomodo girls and Ujiko during the Aofushigaki Ritual.
Tassha, a ritual participant waits outside during the ceremony.
Scene from the Aofushigaki ritual. Community members wearing “Happi” jackets, a traditional Japanese coat with a symbol of the Miho Shrine, guard the parade.
Mt. Daisen (大山), a sacred mountain and a residence of Shinto deities, seen across Miho Bay.
Toya walks towards the Miho Shrine during the ritual.
Two boats carrying Toya and parishioners are pulled to the center of Miho Bay—a tribute to Kotoshironushi (commonly known as Ebisu) who hid himself in the sea. The boats are decorated with Sakaki branches, straw, bamboo, and colorful flags.
Umbrellas lined up at Miho Shrine.
The night before the Aofushigaki Ritual at Miho Shrine. A Kannushi (Shinto priest) watches the preparation of the ritual.
Sakura seen at the Miho Shrine.
Scene from the Yoi-Matsuri ceremony on the night before the Aofushigaki ritual.
Overlooking the Miho Bay in Mihonoseki. In the words of Japan’s first Nobel laureate, Hideki Yukawa “Mihonoseki is one of the few places where you can find the roots of the Japanese soul.”
Mr. Fukuma is one of the Ujiko (氏子) people and also an owner of Fukuma-kan, a traditional Japanese style ryokan inn which has been in business since 1717.