During the "off season," so to speak, when Ikata and Red Wing are not engaged in their exchange program, I would like to use this blog to introduce bits and pieces of Ikata's cultural events throughout the year. Updates will not be frequent, so if there is anything you would like to see, just ask in the combox!
The following explanation about the Ushi Oni was written by Mr. Yasuji Suzuki, who works very hard to improve his English by writing frequent essays on various cultural and historical topics.
Have you ever seen the Ushi Oni? Probably you have seen it at the autumn festival in Ikata last year if you attended it. It is held at the precinct of the Hachiman Shrine and the playground of Ikata elementary school every year.
I searched and investigated about the Ushi Oni's history and meaning on the Internet. I'll explain simply about the Ushi Oni's present and past. First, I'll tell you its shape.
Ushi means ox and Oni means devil. It's 5-6m long and in the shape of a cattle's body with some bamboo framework. The long neck is made of a thick log and the tail is in the shape of a sword. It is covered with palm tree bark or red cloth, and in addition it has an awful face.
Second, I'll explain its history to you.
In 1651, Kiyomasa Kato made a Kikkosha, which is the prototype of the Ushi Oni. Kiyomasa Kato was a famous general of the Warring States Period. Itis well known to almost all Japanese people that he defeated a big tiger on his own during the Old Korean War. He used the Kikkosha to defend and attack. A lot of soldiers hid inside it and were guarded from a cloud of arrows and stones from the enemy's castle. Many enemy castles were defeated by Kiyomasa in this way. Stories of his prowess like these were told in Uwajima by Takatora Todo, who was the first of the Uwajima castellans, and also an expert in raising cattle.
I'll explain about the Kikkosha to you. We can write "亀甲車" instead of Kikkosha. 亀 means turtle. 甲 is 甲羅 which means hard shell, and 車 means car. It was made of a hard wooden box covered with ox skin like a body, and the head was made of a rare ox's head with blood dripping from it.
We can see the Ushi Oni not only in Uwajima but also many regions of southern Ehime, which is called the Nanyo Region.
Hidemune Date took up the Uwajima tradition after Takatora Todo moved from here to another place. Someone says that the Ushi Oni of Uwajima came into being 200 years ago and the body has been covered with a red cloth since the beginning of the Showa Period. A common Nanyo region custom at present is for many children to follow after the Ushi Oni while blowing the "Kaifuki," a triton-like flute. Kaifuki is made from a bamboo tube in which holes are drilled.