Several times in this column we’ve discussed Kushida-jinja, the Shinto shrine that is the guardian divinity for Hakata. It’s known to the locals as O-Kushida-san. Hakata Gion Yamakasa, the climax of which is the annual early-morning race of festival floats through the streets of Fukuoka on July 15 is the most famous summer event in the city. Few people, however, know of the Miyoto Ebisu Festival in December. It’s held at the Ebisu-jinja, which is located near the mochi shop on the grounds of a subsidiary shrine of the Kushida-jinja. It is one of the few Ebisu festivals in Japan that features both a male and a female Ebisu (fisherman god). Hence, miyoto, which means husband and wife,in the festival name.
Years ago, many commercial and fishing vessels would come to the part of the seaside near the shrine known as Kushida Beach. Here, a ceremony was held in which people would share a meal with the divinities in supplication for commercial prosperity and a large catch. Since then, Ebisu has become known as the divinity for marital harmony in addition to that for success in business and fishing. The Kushida-jinja holds the Mikkaebisu Festival every year on the evening of December 2 and during the day on December 3. The ritual meals are held every half-hour from 17:00 to 23:00 on the 2nd and from 10:00 to 16:00 the 3rd.
Visitors can attend after a ritual purification ceremony at the Ebisu Kaikan. They take their seats according to the numbers on their tickets (which cost ¥1,500). Those conducting the event dress in white ceremonial robes and carry in a large sea bream on their shoulders as if it were a mikoshi, or portable shrine. They march around and through the visitors in time to taiko rhythms. Then more assistants carry in the same manner a large lacquered sake cup with a capacity of 18 liters for the joint celebration. A lottery with gifts is always held when the ceremony is over, and a shout goes up from the crowd every time someone hits a lucky number. There are also commemorative gifts for married couples, but this is a festival singles can enjoy just as well. An added bonus is that the Kushida ginan (gingko trees) on the shrine grounds are a lovely yellow just at this time of year.
For more information, call the Kushida Shrine at (092) 291-2951