#5 Paantu Festival (パーントゥ祭り)Where: Miyako Island, Okinawa
When: Various times; depends on the location
Why: Ritual exorcism
Claim to fame: Certified important intangible folk culture asset
Once widespread throughout Okinawa, this festival now only survives on the remote Miyako Island for that selfsame reason. Not for too much longer, though – most women now prefer having jobs instead of becoming priestesses. So if you want to go, the time is now.
Some people believe this festival has its roots in Papua New Guinea because of the distinctive wooden mask with the slit eyes and long nose.
There are at least two locations on the island where the Paantu Festival is still held. In Hirara City, paantus are celebrated as the bringers of joy. In this version, the paantus are three young men covered in leafy vines and mud from a certain spring. They run amok getting mud on other people, and in doing so chase away any evil spirits that might be near.
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