A little kid running away from a man dressed as Paantu, a mythological demon/god who appears in a yearly festival on the island of Miyako in September.
The mythology behind the ancient, annual Japanese Paantu festival tells of how a mysterious and odd-looking wooden face washed ashore on a beach located on the northern shore of island of Miyako (or Miyako-jima). The arrival of the mask was the impetus for the festival which has been held over the course of several centuries. On other islands in the Miyako chain, the festival is closed to outsiders like many other religious ceremonies held on the various islands that make up the Miyako Islands of the Okinawa Prefecture, so not much is actually known about the gathering which is held in early September. However, details about the clandestine event are not a complete mystery.
Paantu is held in part to help drive out demons and removing any trace of bad luck that is hanging around on Miyako. In preparation for the festival, a group of local men are “elected” to portray the evil devil or god Paantu. The men then cover themselves with mud, leaves, and branches and finally the ceremonial black mask of Paantu. The menacing-looking group then rambles around visiting the locals smearing mud on folks, doors to homes and even police cars in order to ward off evil spirits. The popularity (and signifigance) of the festival has drastically faded in recent years as it has become increasingly difficult to recruit people willing to cover themselves in mud and scare the shit out of little kids—which I find hard to believe because all that sounds like a pretty fun time if you ask me. I’ve posted some photos taken at various Paantu Festivals for you to scroll through below and a couple of videos of good old Paantu terrorizing kids and covering them in mud.
If you need me, I probably won’t be anywhere near Miyako. That’s for sure.
More after the jump…