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Monday, 9th December 2013
In Events In Japan,

Pray for luck and fortune at Toka Ebisu festival

The best way to understand any new culture is to attend a local event or festival that celebrates a native tradition, and for anyone visiting Japan in the New Year, Toka Ebisu is just the ticket.

Held at the Imamiya Ebisu Shrine in Osaka, which is dedicated to the god of wealth Ebisu, the extravaganza is all about praying for the prosperity of business.

Around one million people flock to the ceremony every year to watch as people make their dedications to the deity - who is also the patron saint of commerce and one of the Seven Gods of Good Fortune - or even to pray themselves.

In 2014, Toka Ebisu will run from January 9th to 11th with the 9th known as the Eve of Ebisu and the 11th the Last Helping of Luck.

The 10th is set to be the main festival day, and this is when the Good Luck Palanquin parade will be held and 600 celebrities, fuku-musume ('good luck girls') and geisha will hand out lucky goods to visitors.

Fuku-musume are fascinating to watch, especially considering the effort and status it takes to become one. More than 3,000 women apply for the honour, and a series of auditions have to be completed before the successful candidates are selected.

A morning market is also due to be held from 7am, where you can see local fishermen flogging all manner of fresh produce, with sea bream in particular a common offering during times of celebration. In the precinct, various stalls will be selling lucky charms such as beckoning cats and Daruma dolls.

Other highlights of the event include traditional performing arts displays, geisha dances and rice cake making workshops, with the fun continuing well into the night on each day of the festival. After dark, the streets are illuminated by lanterns and glittering lights - quite a spectacle to admire.

Written by Mark Smith