Literally meaning ‘small new year’, Koshōgatsu begins with the first full moon day of the year. It is an auspicious day for the Japanese. Prayers are made to Goddess Izanami who, along with God Izanagi, is believed to have given rise to Kami (spirits) and thus the whole of nature. Izanami and Izanagi are understood as the creators of Japan. Other Koshōgatsu rites and practices are focused predominately on the next year’s harvest. Prayers are made for a good harvest, and many rice-planting and other paddy-field festivals take place.
Shishimai (a Lion Dance) is also performed in Japan around the time of Koshōgatsu as a form of prayer for household safety and a good harvest. Adapted from a similar Chinese custom, shishimai features performers clad in ornate Lion costumes dancing to the accompanying sounds of bamboo flutes and drums. At the end of the dance the lions ‘bite’ the heads off a few members of the audience to bring good fortune.
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