Uwajima Ushi-oni Festival

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A mask of the Cow Demon (牛鬼, ushioni), one of the many used at the bullfighting festival.

The Uwajima Ushi-oni festival (宇和島牛鬼祭り, Uwajima Ushi-oni matsuri) is a purification event held annually July 22–24 in Uwajima, Ehime Prefecture, Japan. It derives from an incident in the Japanese invasions of Korea in which Toyotomi Hideyoshi tried invaded Korea. The invasion was carried out twice. The first invasion resulted in a ceasefire but later in 1593, a second invasion carried out but ended in failure.[1] The festival has many events like the Ushi-oni parade and fighting as well as fireworks and dancing.[2]


There are a variety of views about the origin. According to Nihon gaishi (unofficial history in Japan) written by Raisanyō in 1880s, in the second Siege of Jinju (1593), Toyotomi Hideyoshi commanded Katō Kiyomasa to invasion of Korea.[3] Toyotomi Hideyoshi was a daimyō, warrior, general and politician of the Sengoku period in Japan and Katō Kiyomasa was famous liegeman of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. The reason was Toyotomi Hideyoshi commanded to Korea twice is the breakdown in negotiations between Korea and Japan.[4] In 1593 June, Katō Kiyomasa attacked the Jinju castle in Korea. When Ushi-oni was useful. Katō Kiyomasa and Japanese soldier made a tortoise shell cart. Japanese soldier could hide by entering a tortoise shell cart so that they can save themselves for arrows and stones. As the result, Katō Kiyomasa and Japanese soldier attacked a behind castle and they could collapsed for castle. The tortoise shell cart was wrapped hard board and cowhide. The tortoise shell cart had fake cow head on top and the face look angry. Consequently, it called Ushi-oni. Now, the Ushi-oni is essential for Uwajima festival and it became familiar existence for Uwajima citizen.[5]


The festival was started in 1950 and since then it has been held in July 22-24 annually, the festival name was originally Uwajima Syokō festival. Syokō means commerce and industry. In 1967, the Ushi-oni parade was started. In 1996, the festival name was changed and it became the current name.[6] Score of people shoulder the Ushi-oni and walking with bamboo flute sound by children. The flute called Kaifuki. The flute bore a hole in bamboo tube. Many children walking after the Ushi-oni while blow the Kaifuki and the custom came to Katō Kiyomasa blow the Kaifuki when attacked the Jinjyu castle. Many children and men walking with call out Wassyoi Wassyoi. Last day, run into another Ushi-oni because try to competition which is stronger.

Ushi-oni feature[edit]

The name means cow ogre. Size is 5 or 6 meter and it has a long neck and the face like ogre. The Ushi-oni with palm fur or red fur all over and the tail like a sword. The Ushi-oni made of bamboo and log. The Ushi-oni has brave and powerful role in the festival. Many people go to houses around Uwajima with the Ushi-oni because they will do purification. In case of Lion dance, bite is a meaning of a purification but in the case of Ushi-oni, shake head is a meaning of a purification. Now, many variety of Ushi-oni was made. For instance, account of Ushi-oni is more than 20 and the color is many like blue and purple. In addition, children’s Ushi-oni is also existence. The children’s Ushi-oni size is smaller than the ordinarily Ushi-oni.

Festival activities[edit]

The first day is called the Uwajima gaiya carnival. There are many street stalls and a display of fireworks. Second day, musical parade at Uwajima street and sale of local food. The second half of the day, mini Ushi-oni parade goes on. On that night, people dance Uwajima traditional dancing called Uwajima Ondō. The last day is the Ushi-oni parade. The 20 Ushi-oni walks about Nanyo culture center and go along Uwajima main street and shopping arcade. Finally, they go to toward Suka river and Warei shrine because put in the Ushi-oni.[7] The admission is 3000yen and admission free to under junior high school students.


  • Ri Jin Hi and Kan Je On, Nittyo Kōryushi (Yūhikaku, 1995). ISBN 4-641-18236-1, pp.102-120.
  • Hirotami Kinoshita, Yatsujika odorito Ushi-oni (Matsuyama:Sōfusya shuppan, 2009) ISBN 978-4-86037-134-0, pp. 149–190.


  1. ^ Ri Jin Hi and Kan Je On, Nittyo Kōryushi, 110–115
  2. ^ Hirotami Kinoshita, Yatsujika odorito Ushi-oni, 189
  3. ^ Hirotami Kinoshita, Yatsujika odorito Ushi-oni, 149–150
  4. ^ Ri Jin Hi and Kan Je On, Nittyo Kōryushi, 114
  5. ^ Hirotami Kinoshita, Yatsujika odorito Ushi-oni, 148–150
  6. ^ Hirotami Kinoshita, Yatsujika odorito Ushi-oni , 188
  7. ^ Hirotami Kinoshita, Yatsujika odorito Ushi-oni, 189–190

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