Oyama Inu Matsuri: Oyama’s Dog Festival

The Oyama Dog Festival (Oyama Inu Matsuri) is a centuries-old tradition originating from the rice-farming village of Oyama, with roots dating back over 300 years. The festivities commemorate Mekke-inu, a legendary dog celebrated for its heroic deeds that supposedly saved the village from demons. The festival unfolds through grand parades and rituals, commencing in Oyama village and culminating at the Sugio (or Suginō) Shrine.

Legend of Mekke-inu:

Centuries ago, Sugio Shrine was occupied by two demons, causing distress among the villagers of Oyama. Desperate to rid themselves of the malevolent entities, the demons demanded the sacrifice of the youngest and most beautiful girl in the village every 5th of June. Refusal led to the destruction of fields and a year-long famine curse.

The demons would choose the victim by shooting a white-feathered arrow into the door of the house where the most beautiful girl lived. A Shugendo pilgrim passing through Oyama witnessed the festival and learned of the tragic fate awaiting the chosen girl.

Determined to intervene, the pilgrim followed the sacrificial carriage and, hidden in Sugio Shrine’s forest, witnessed the gruesome scene. Two demon-like entities, resembling giant old men, gleefully carried out the sacrifice, singing a macabre song about Tanba’s Mekke-inu.

Horrified but determined, the pilgrim journeyed to Tanba (present-day Kyoto) to find Mekke-inu. Despite discovering that Mekke-inu was just an ordinary dog, the pilgrim returned to Oyama with the canine companion. In a quick-thinking move during the festival, Mekke-inu was substituted for the young girl in the carriage, tricking the demons.

As the demons opened the carriage, expecting their usual victim, Mekke-inu leaped ferociously, engaging them in a fierce battle. Ultimately, Mekke-inu and the demons lay lifeless, with the villagers mourning the courageous sacrifice of the dog.

The festival now serves as a celebration of the bravery and loyalty of dogs, ensuring that Mekke-inu’s courage is remembered by generations to come.

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