In April, a very fun (and definitely unique) spring festival takes place near Wakamiya Hachimangu Shrine, located about 20 minutes from downtown Kochi City by car. This is the Doronko (muddy) Festival, which has been going on for over 400 years! The main purpose of the festival is to wish for a bountiful harvest and good health, but it’s done in a way you probably wouldn’t expect!
After women in yukata (traditional Japanese clothing) complete rice planting, it’s tradition for them to start smearing mud all over the faces of male spectators! It is believed that men who get smeared won’t suffer from summer illnesses
But you might wonder…WHY?
That is a totally valid question! Although the exact origin of the festival is not clear, one of the theories is related to Tadayoshi Yamauchi, the second feudal lord of Tosa (present-day Kochi). As he was inspecting his territory in Nagahama, it is said that his clothing accidentally got mud on it from one of the ladies working in the field. Just as Tadayoshi’s loyal samurai was about to punish the lady, he ordered him to stand back. Tadayoshi said to the lady, “It was my fault for walking in these areas during planting season. Please continue your hard work.” Based on Tadayoshi’s generosity (and perhaps also realizing that getting dirty wasn’t necessarily a bad thing), it is believed that all of the ladies in the rice paddies started throwing mud at each other joyfully! This could be one of the origin stories of the Doronko Festival. How wholesome!
Anybody can participate in this festival so if you’re ever in the city around the first weekend of April, definitely come join us and get muddy for good health!
Wakamiya Hachimangu Shrine also hosts an array of traditional festivals and events throughout the year, including Chosokabe Festival (bottom left photo), where local volunteers dress up as samurai warriors to share local history, etc.
The Doronko Festival usually takes place for three days starting on the first Saturday of April, but this year, it is scheduled to take place only two days (please check the Wakamiya Hachimangu Shrine official website linked below for updates)
Thank you to @若宮八幡宮 (Wakamiya Hachimangu Shrine) for letting us share their beautiful photos!