There are so many popular beliefs in Japan when it comes to securing happiness. One of such ways is receiving a wooden doll carved in the shape of an “uso” or bullfinch (red chest songbird) at a shrine, which is known as a lucky bird. The number of students visiting the shrine has been steadily increasing over the years due to the event being held around the same time when entrance examinations are held.
Usokae’s ancient history started with Sugawara no Michizane (the God of Learning) who was a well-known scholar, poet and politician of the Heian Period. He was also known as Kan Shojo or Kanke. He was very much into learning and doing things honestly for which he was known to people as an honest man. After his death, a shrine was put up on the spot where he died and it was named Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine. This is where the event is being held now.
The word Usokae comes from the word “uso” which has a double meaning in Japanese: a bird (bullfinch) and lies. Because of this, the common bullfinch is traditionally said to symbolize evil while the golden bullfinch symbolizes good. Everyone wants to receive the golden one in order to receive good luck. People also believe that it drives the evil spirits away.
There is a great number of people attending this event in the hope of receiving good luck. Once at the shrine, people greet each other with “Come here! Let’s exchange!” which is followed by the exchange of bullfinch dolls. If you’re interested in buying one, some of these dolls are being sold at Yushima Tenjin Shrine and Kameido Tenjin Shrine (Tokyo).
The bullfinch exchange festival in Fukuoka is a great way to start the new year while experiencing some cultural traditions and receiving some fortune. Join the festival and get lucky for the upcoming 2016. What a better way to secure a year of happiness?
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