Mount Iwate: Guardian of the Homeland
Mount Iwate is a mountain that the people of Iwate always look up to. Standing at 2,038 meters above sea level, the locals are proud of this beautiful sight. Mount Iwate is an active volcano that has been erupting repeatedly for 700,000 years, and has undergone 7 major sector collapses to reach its current form. The large amount of volcanic ash and rocks that fell created vast foothills of the mountain. In this episode, we take a look at people living in the embrace of Mount Iwate.

Learning from the Mountain

Over the centuries, the often fire-spewing Mount Iwate became an object of fear. Eventually, out of this was born a religion of mountain worship, which deemed the entire mountain sacred. Until around 1930, it was the custom for boys in surrounding villages to climb Mount Iwate when they turned 15. Known as "Oyamakake," this ritual was considered as the path to adulthood. Mount Iwate helps the climber grow both physically and spiritually even today.

A Day to Thank the Horses

Takizawa City is located to the southeast of Mount Iwate. This region was known for producing excellent horses since the days of the samurai. Every year on the 2nd Saturday of June, the horses are taken to the shrine dedicated to Sozen, the guardian deity of horses, and then parade through the town. The "Chagu Chagu Umakko festival" is said to have originated when people used to take their horses to pray at the shrine after rice planting in spring, to show their appreciation for their hard work.

Women Praying "Naked"

For centuries, on January 8th, women of the Hirakasa district have offered annual prayers in a ritual to Mount Iwate. The festival is known as "Hadaka Mairi," which means "naked pilgrim." In the past, it was the men that paraded the district naked. During World War II the women took the lead of the Hadaka Mairi, praying for the safety of their husbands and sons who had gone off to war. In keeping with tradition, they wore only light clothes, and this act has been passed down to this day.