Festival at Iwashimizu Hachiman Shrine, c. 1840

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The tenth-century warrior Tairano Masakado staged a revolt against the central government when he was denied the high position of kebiishi (head of the imperial warriors). The emperor dispatched troops to defeat him, and instructed priests at shrines throughout the country to pray for his subjugation. Eventually his troops were overpowered and Masakado was beheaded. Concern lingered, however, that Masakado's fierce spirit would return to cause trouble. To pacify his restive spirit, special ceremonies came to be conducted annually at Shinto shrines. At Iwashimizu Hachiman Shrine on Mount Otoko in early spring, splendidly dressed shrine officiates perform a special dance to chanting and music meant to console Masakado's spirit and ensure continued peace. Here a dancer holds a branch of the sacred sakaki tree used to ritualistically sweep away evil.

Festival at Iwashimizu Hachiman Shrine
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