Tori-no-ichi (Bird Fair, Festival of the Rooster)

Type of Holiday: Religious (Shinto)
Date of Observation: November for two or three days
Where Celebrated: Japan
Symbols and Customs: Great Bird, Rake


Tori-no-ichi is an observance in Shinto, an ancient religion that originated in Japan. Most Shinto adherents live in Japan, but small communities also exist in Europe, Latin America, North America, and in the Pacific island nations.

The name Shinto was first employed during the sixth century C . E . to differentiate indigenous religions in Japan from faith systems that originated in mainland Asia (primarily Buddhism and Confucianism). The word is derived from two Chinese characters, shen (gods) and tao (way). Loosely translated, Shinto means "way of the gods." Its roots lie in an ancient nature-based religion. Some important concepts in Shinto include the value of tradition, the reverence of nature, cleanliness (ritual purity), and the veneration of spirits called kami. Strictly speaking, kami are not deities. The literal translation of the word kami is "that which is hidden."

Kami (which is both the singular and plural term) are honored but do not assert their powers upon humans in the traditional manner of deities or gods in other religions. People may be descended from the kami, and kami may influence the course of nature and events. The kami can bestow blessings, but they are not all benign. Kami are present in natural things such as trees, mountains, rocks, and rivers. They are embodied in religious relics, especially mirrors and jewels. They also include spirits of ancestors, local deities, holy people, and even political or literary figures. The human role is to venerate the kami and make offerings. The ultimate goal of Shinto is to uphold the harmony among humans and between people and nature. In this regard, the principle of all kami is to protect and sustain life.

The central authorities in Shinto are the priests. Traditionally, the duties of the priest were passed through heredity lines, but in modern times priests are trained on the basis of recommendation. The priests' duties include communicating with the kami and ensuring that ceremonies are properly carried out. Shinto does not have a single collection of sacred texts analogous to the Christian Bible or Islamic Qur'an. Instead, several important books provide information and guidance: Kojiki (Records of Ancient Events), Nihongi (Chronicles of Japan), and Engishiki (Chronicles of the Engi).

Tori-no-ichi, also known as the Bird Fair or Rooster Festival, is held in November at Shinto shrines in Japan, particularly the Otori Shrine in Asakusa. The rooster is one of the twelve animals after which the years, days, and hours are named in the old Japanese calendar. Tori-no-ichi is held on days of the rooster in November. The day of the rooster occurs every twelve days, so Tori-no-ichi is held either two or three times in November, depending on the year. Legend suggests that when there are three days, the likelihood of fires is unusually high.

According to Shinto mythology, a sacred bird (sometimes referred to as a crow, an eagle, or a rooster) perched on the stringed instrument (known as a gen) used to lure the sun god out of her cave when the world was plunged in darkness. In Japanese, the name Tori-no-ichi not only refers to this mythological bird but also constitutes a play on the words signifying financial gain. This may be because most of the members of the Shinto sect who observe the festival are wealthy merchants who want to ensure a successful business year. Tori-no-ichi has been observed since the Edo Period (1603-1868). Tori-no-ichi

The celebration's most visible feature is the bamboo RAKES sold at stalls that are set up around the shrine. Other good-luck emblems that are often used for advertising or decorative purposes during the festival include gold and silver coins, the account book, the magic key that is believed to have the power to unlock the door of fate, and the hammer, which can be used to hammer out whatever it is that a person wants from the bag carried by the god of wealth.


Great Bird

"The Great Bird" in Shinto mythology has been variously regarded as a crow, an eagle, or a rooster. It is widely regarded as a symbol of prosperity and good fortune because of its role in the mythological incident described above and because it is believed to possess the strength to fly higher (i.e. closer to heaven) than any other bird.


The bamboo rakes that are sold and displayed everywhere during Tori-no-ichi are symbolic of the ability to attract good fortune because they resemble the outstretched claws of the kumade or "bear's paw." One who possesses the kumade has the power to attract or "rake in" any treasure or good fortune that he or she may desire.

The rakes that are sold in outdoor stalls surrounding the shrines where the festival is observed are similar to garden rakes but are usually decorated with many goodluck emblems and, in the center, the smiling mask of Okame, the so-called "laughing goddess" or goddess of good nature. They may be small enough to be worn as a hair ornament or tucked in the neckline of a woman's dress, or they may be so large and heavily decorated that it takes several men to carry them through the streets. It is not uncommon for merchants to boost their chances for prosperity by purchasing a successively larger and more elaborate kumade each year.


Henderson, Helene, ed. Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary. 3rd ed. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 2005. MacDonald, Margaret R., ed. The Folklore of World Holidays. Detroit: Gale Research, 1992.


Japan National Tourist Organization
Holiday Symbols and Customs, 4th ed. © Omnigraphics, Inc. 2009

Tori-no-ichi (Rooster Festival)

The Rooster Festival in Japan takes its name from the mythological rooster who helped bring the sun god out from hiding in a cave, and the bird became a symbol of material well-being. Many members of the Shinto sect who observe this festival are wealthy merchants and speculators, and the bamboo rakes that can be seen everywhere at this time are called kumade . People carry these rakes, usually decorated with good-luck emblems and the smiling face of the laughing goddess Okame, because they represent the power to pull toward them anything they desire. Some of the rakes are small enough to be worn in a woman's hair, while others are so large and heavily decorated that it takes several men to carry them through the streets. Sometimes, signs advertising restaurants or shops are hung from them and used throughout the year.
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Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.