Japanese folk faith holds that, in times of change, a deity visits our world to bring blessings. Koshikijima no Toshidon, which occurs every New Year's Eve on Shimo-Koshiki Island in the southwestern part of the Japanese Archipelago, is one such ''raiho''-''shin,'' or visiting deity. Two to five local men dress as deities called Toshidon, donning straw raincoats decorated with the leaves of indigenous plants and monstrous masks with long, pointed noses, oversized fangs and demonic horns. Proceeding through their village, the Toshidon knock on doors and walls to summon the children of the house, whose parents have informed the men in advance of any mischief of the past year.
They sit down with the children and scold them for their missteps while preaching good behaviour. With a parting gift of a large, spherical rice cake to allow each child to grow a year older in peace, the Toshidon walk backwards out of the house and proceed to the next family. These visits play an important role in building community in Shimo-Koshiki: children gradually develop a sense of affiliation with their village and its culture, while the men who act as Toshidon reinforce their identity and the continuity of their longstanding traditions.
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