Just before winter takes hold, Hiroshima’s city center is taken over by one more colorful festival, all about good fortune, cash and rakes.
Commonly known as Ebisu-kou or Ebessan, the Ebisu Taisai Festival [胡子大祭] dates back around 400 years to the early days of the castle town that grew into modern Hiroshima. It is one of Hiroshima city’s big three traditional taisai or grand festivals, the others being Toukaksan in June and the Sumiyoshi-san summer festival at Sumiyoshi Shrine.
The chubby, fish-bearing and ever smiling Ebisu is one of Japan’s most popular kami in its huge parthenon of gods, unsurprising as, as well as the guardian deity of fishermen, Ebisu is the kami the good fortune in both the figurative and literal sense.
The festival is centered on Ebisu Shrine which is tucked unobtrusively between the LABI and Mitsukoshi department stores in the covered Ebisu-dori arcade. A huge wooden barrel sits in front, into which people throw money, mostly loose change, but you’ll always spot some folding money in there too.
Some say that you can get a good idea of how the local economy is doing by taking a quick look at the number of 10,000 yen bills.
Indeed, it is local business owners that take Ebisu-kou most seriously. Stalls line the streets do a brisk trade in brightly decorated rakes called komazarae which business people hope that, when after receiving the appropriate blessing at the shrine, will help them rake in profit.
They come in all sizes, from small enough to attach to a car mirror to some almost as long as their purchasers are tall.
From morning until night, you will see a long line of people lining up to make their offerings and receive blessings at the shrine by officiants and three lucky Ebisu shrine maidens.
You will, of course, find all the usual festival stalls lining the streets around the shrine and along the main Chuo-dori Street selling food, drinks and enticing kids with colorful games.
Chuo-dori is closed to traffic on at least one night during the festival (Saturday November 18 in 2017) when kagura and taiko drum performances are held on an open-air stage.
Ebisu Festival is held every year November 18-20.