Koshikijima no Toshidon
Inscribed in 2009 (4.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
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.
Decision 4.COM 13.53
The Committee (…) decides that [this element] satisfies the criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, as follows:
- R.1: Koshikijima no Toshidon provides a sense of identity and continuity both for those who have transmitted the event by playing the role of Toshidon deities, as well as for children who are advised, admonished and encouraged to behave properly as community members;
- R.2: The inscription of the element on the Representative List would contribute to encouraging the continuation of this practice and to ensuring the visibility and significance of intangible cultural heritage, including similar events observed elsewhere in East Asia and Europe;
- R.3: Local authorities as well as the Association for the Preservation of Koshijimano no Toshidon will carry out a variety of safeguarding measures aimed at ensuring its transmission and promotion, such as workshops and seminars including the production of Toshidon masks;
- R.4: The nomination includes evidence of the free, prior and informed consent of the community concerned;
- R.5: The element is inscribed as an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property on the national inventory maintained by the Agency for Cultural Affairs.
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