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OBSCURE, yet relevant niigata

Happy New Year, gang!

Niigata Prefecture is chock-full of tradition and exclusive activities, especially around the new year. On January 14th, the snug village of Nishi-Yokoyama will begin its legendary festivities that were forever immortalized in the black and white photos of Hiroshi Hamaya, Japan's most famous photographer. Doesn't ring a bell? No worries. Hamaya's documentation of Niigata and the "Back of Japan" in the 1940s showed a different kind of world to his fellow citizens and even to the Western world.

Take the eerie yet mezmerizing photo of "Boys singing songs to drive evil birds away", which depicts a trail of youngsters banging Taiko drums in attempts to literally drive the supposed evil Ibis birds all the way to the neighboring island of Sado. This tradition is still alive and well today.


broken image

For the celebration's epic finale, designated men in the vilage parade around a massive pile of sticks and straw, chanting "O-mara" while bashing each other over the the head with a flaming torch. After about 30 minutes, the surreal spectable reaches its zenith and the pile is lit ablaze. You kinda have to see it to believe it:


Anyway, should you ever find yourself deep in Niigata's rural countryside around January, enjoy the show (and the snow)!

ありがとう! そして明けましておめでとうございます!