Witness a special winter tradition in rural Akita
Takaiwa Shrine: Bantoya & Hadaka-mairi
Takaiwa Shrine was built by Jikaku Daishi and is said to have had Yakushi Nyorai as its principal deity. The main shrine, built in 1794 by a certain master builder in Hiyama, is said to have been as large as Kiyomizu-dera Temple in Kyoto.
The present shrine beside the rock cave was built in recent years. The main deity, Amida Yakushi Kannon, is a wooden statue by Jikaku Daishi (later replaced by a bronze statue), and the Kannon is the 29th of the 33 places of worship in Akita.
Behind the shrine, there lies a huge beehive-shaped rock that seems to overshadow the shrine which is called Kagome Iwa. On this rock, there is a shrine with a lattice door and a wooden statue of a monkey is enshrined.
Events at Takaiwa Shrine
Bantoya and Hadaka-Mairi are two special winter events that take place at Takaiwa Shrine located on Mt Takaiwa.
The Hadaka-mairi (naked pilgrimage) is a traditional event that was usually held during the Lunar New Year (January 15th of the lunar calendar) at Takaiwa Shrine, the guardian shrine of the Niageba district of Futatsui―Town of Love Letters in Akita Prefecture. Clad only in a loincloth, white tabi socks, and straw sandals, pilgrims enter the Fujikoto River and cleanse their bodies by pouring cold water over their heads with a pail. Afterward, with offering money in hand, they silently run 4 km up the snowy mountain path to the shrine.
It is said that this pilgrimage was originally performed by young men who were about to undergo military conscription to pray for good luck and long life in arms, but this practice ceased after the war. However, around the early 90s, the Niageba Youth Association, who wanted to revive the shrine, which had fallen into disrepair as fewer people visited it, revived the event in order to promote Takaiwa Shrine and the Hadaka-mairi as a local winter event.
Fun fact – it is said that if you make this pilgrimage for three years in a row, your wish will come true!
During Bantoya, snow lanterns are lit from the approach to Takaiwa shrine (to the mountainside of the shrine) to commemorate the victims of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and pray for early recovery. On a snowy moonlit night, you can witness the shining snow lanterns along the path create a mysterious atmosphere around you.
Hadaka-mairi – Fujikoto River (Takaiwa Bridge riverbed)
Bantoya – from the Takaiwa Shrine approach to Takaiwa Shrine
🚗Approximately 30 minutes by car from Odate-Noshiro Airport About 20 minutes by car from Akita Expressway Futatsui Shirakami IC
🚂JR Futatsui Station (5 minutes by car to the trail entrance to Takaiwa Shrine)
- Date / Time
- Mid or late winter (TBA for 2024)
Hadaka-mairi - from 19:00 p.m.
Bantoya - from sunset
- Notes / Other
- ★Reservations not required for viewing.
★Those who wish to participate in the Hadaka-mairi event are required to apply in advance (application instructions will be updated later).
Business / Company / Operator Details
- Ito Ken Shoten (伊藤謙商店)
- +81(0)185-73-2103 (only Japanese available)