Hopefully I’m describing this fun festival correctly. If not, feel free to correct me!
Toka Ebisu, or the 10th Day of Ebisu, is a 3 day festival that takes place at the Inamiya Ebisu Shrine which is not too far away from where I get off when I go into the city. Every year from the 9th-11th of January there is a big festival there where people pray for their success in business and money issues in general. As Osaka is historically a commercial town, tons of people come to visit here. I had completely forgotten about it (mostly since I had just flown in from the States the day before) until my friend reminded me. Knowing that I should fight my jet lag, I decided to tag along for the first day, also known as the Eve of the Eve of Ebisu.
I didn’t really have much knowledge of the festival but my friend filled in the blanks. People from all over the place come to the shrine to recieve fukusasa, which is a sacred bamboo branch that is supposed to help their business prosper. Getting the branch isn’t enough, one has to go and collect various items to attach to your branch. I’m guessing the more things you have on your branches, the more powerful the branch becomes. There are a lot of trinkets and items that you can purchase for your branch so none of them look the same. If you’re lazy and have a lot of money, you can purchase a premade fukusasa. They look really nice but they’re super expensive! It’s not rare to drop around 200 dollars for a really nice one.
In the center of the shrine, people throw some money away and pray for their success. I’m guessing the more money you throw, the better fortune you’ll have. I only saw people throwing coins there but people do throw big bills as well. My friend apparently caught a huge group throwing 1 man bills (around 100 dollars) all at once! That’s crazy.
There are also other things in the shrine such as a lucky wall that people line up to touch, and the fuku-musume (good luck maidens) that sell you items for your fukusasa. Apparently said shrine maidens are a hit with the guys. There’s a reason for that: apparently becoming a fuku musume is no easy feat–thousands of girls apply and only a handful are selected to be one! I’ll admit they’re cute but I definitely don’t want to be a creep like some people were—I saw guys with huge cameras that were just taking zoomed in photos of the maidens! They’re happy to pose for you but there’ something about it that’s unsettling. Pervs just gotta ruin it all.
So what do you do with your old fukusasa from the year before? Simple! You dispose of it as soon as you get in the shrine. Then you buy a new one and repeat the process all over again.
Despite it being pretty cold, I had a lot of fun. I completely forgot about this festival and I really didn’t know about it so I was happy to learn a few things. Plus it was great to see my Japan friends again. It was a nice start to the new year in Japan. January 10th is the main day where a huge festival is held. Maybe I’ll try going to that next year!