Fox procession in Oji 2017-2018
31 December 2017 – 1 January 2018
Kitsune, or the fox, used to be a familiar animal for the Japanese, as for many other peoples, holding a privileged place in folklore. Traditionally, kitsune is known for its propensity to “fox” people, often in the guise of a human girl as depicted in Japanese folktales. But the fox is also regarded as a sacred being, venerated as the messenger of the deity “Inari”.
Legend holds that on New Year’s Eve, a number of foxes from all over the Kanto region came to gather at Oji, a town located in northern Tokyo. The foxes changed into their formal kimono under a big tree and thence solemnly marched in procession to the Oji Inari Shrine to pay New Year’s homage. Hiroshige Utagawa depicted the scene in one of his ukiyo-e works(*). It is also believed that the shrine built adjacent to the legendary tree is the present Shozoku Inari Shrine (shõzoku means costume).
* “New Year’s Eve Foxfires at the Changing Tree in Oji”, “Hundred Views of Edo”.
◆Fox procession in Oji
The fox procession (kitsune no gyoretsu) was started twenty-five years ago by the locals who wished to pass down the legend and traditions to the younger generations.
On New Year’s Eve, around midnight, the town of Oji looks enchanted as if by magic. People in kimono with fox makeups gather at the Shozoku Inari Shrine. From there, they walk in procession, with lanterns in hand, to the Oji Inari Shrine to pay homage of New Year.
*Photos from last year
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