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更新日: December 7, 2017
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Hakata Culture vol.130


Tamaseseri: Warding off the Year’s Bad Spirits

Tamaseseri: Warding off the Year’s Bad Spirits

Every year on Jan. 3, the Tamaseseri festival is held at Hakozakigu Shrine in Higashi Ward. The origin of this festival is unknown, but it is thought to date back nearly 500 years to the Muromachi era. Under the cold winter sky, men clad only in loincloths battle for possession of two wooden balls, which are said to ward off bad spirits, all while getting splashed with cold water. The Tamaseseri is considered one of the big three festivals in Kyushu.


At 13:00, the balls are purified in a cleansing ceremony, after which it is carried about 250 m to Tamatori Ebisu Shrine, which marks the start of the festival. From here, the men grapple for the balls until the finish line at the Sakuramon Gate. Tradition dictates that those who touch the purified balls will be protected from misfortune, and the intensity of the crowd of nearly naked men clamoring for the balls, which represent yin and yang, respectively, is truly a sight to behold. The men are divided into two groups, one on inland side of the shrine and one on the side nearer the beach. The last man standing with the ball from the former group is said to be assured a good harvest, while his seaside counterpart can expect an abundant catch of fish.


Several theories exist as to the origin of these balls. One theory is that Empress Jingu offered two balls to the dragon god Ryujin upon dispatching soldiers to the Korean Peninsula. Another theory says the two balls were found on Ushiohama Beach next to Hakozakigu Shrine on New Year’s Day in 1494. Yet another theory says a mysterious ball found floating in Hakata Bay was enshrined at Hakozakigu Shrine, and when this ball was heard emitting a strange noise at night as the moonlight shone upon it, the decision was made to enshrine another ball.


No matter the true story, Hakozakigu Shrine is not the only place in Fukuoka that holds a Tamaseseri festival. There is a similar festival at Sumiyoshi Shrine in Meinohama, and some say that these festivals were much more commonplace in olden times. There also used to be children’s versions of the Tamaseseri in the neighborhoods of Hakata up until the Meiji era. Children would carry balls around their respective districts and leave them as an offering at the household altar of the last house on their circuit. This custom can still be seen in some parts of the city to this day.



 

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1年の吉凶を占う筥崎宮の「玉せせり」

 毎年1月3日に東区の筥崎宮で行われる新春の恒例行事「玉せせり」。正式名称を玉取祭といい、起源は定かではありませんが、約500年前の室町時代から始まったとされます。寒風の吹く冬空の下、裸に締め込み姿の男たちが勢い水を浴びながら、玉を激しく奪い合う様子は圧巻です。九州三大祭のひとつに数えられています。


 午後1時、玉洗い式で清められた木玉が本殿から約250メートル離れた玉取恵比須神社に運ばれます。ここが玉せせりのスタート地点で、ここから楼門に設けられたゴールを目指すのです。玉にふれると悪事・災難を逃れて幸運が授かるとされ、締め込み姿の競り子たちが激しい争奪戦をくり広げます。競り子は陸側と浜側に分かれていて、最後に陸側が玉を手にすれば豊作、浜側が玉を手にすれば豊漁といわれています。


 この玉には陰陽2つがありますが、玉の由来にはさまざまな説があります。神功皇后が朝鮮出兵の際、龍神に捧げた満珠干珠にあやかったという説。1494年、正月に筥崎宮のお潮井浜で2つの玉をひろったという説。また博多の海上で2つの玉をひろって1つを筥崎宮に納めたところ、夜に光を放って鳴動するなど不思議なことがあるので、もう1つも筥崎宮に納めたという話もあります。


 実は、玉せせりは筥崎宮だけの行事ではありません。同じような祭が西区姪浜の住吉神社にもあり、昔はあちこちで行われていたようです。さらに子どもたちが参加する「玉せせり」もありました。明治時代まで博多の各町では子どもたちが玉を持って町内を回り、迎えた家では玉を神棚に供える行事がありました。現在でも市内の一部にこの風習が残っています。