The 4th and final post on last weekend's Tauebayashi Matsuri.
The Tauebayashi Matsuri was originally a religious festival. Rice was life, and fertility was the concern of many religions. Nowadays the matsuri is kept alive as a "folk art", but the religious aspect is still vital. The 4 corners of the paddy have gohei in the 4 colors, and in the centre is a sacred tree representing the kami of the rice paddy. Ritual sake has been poured around the tree, and the bottle left as an offering. After prayers, the planting begins.
The planters were originally "saotome", possibly translated as "virgin", but also with elements of fertile maidens. Nowadays the maidens are aged up to 80 years old, and also some young men planted as well.
To the accompanienment of the song and drumming, which is supposed to strengthen the rice but also functions as a worksong, the line of planters gradually move backwards across the paddy planting as they go.
There were actually a couple of saotome in the group.
Finally a short video of the scene.