The Dontosai Festival is a ritual unique to Miyagi and takes place at various shrines throughout the prefecture every year on January 14. The largest one is held at Osaki Hachimangu Shrine
in Sendai City. Every year, attendees gather their New Year’s decorations from the previous year and toss them into a bonfire as a prayer for health and good fortune in the coming year. Perhaps the most famous spectacle is the hadaka-mairi
(naked pilgrimage), where large groups of pilgrims clad only in traditional loincloths and torso wraps brave the cold and march silently through the streets to pay their respects at the shrine.
Casual visitors needn't only watch—they too are invited to pray at the shrine and participate in the bonfire ritual. After ringing in the new year with a prayer, visitors can buy a fortune from the shrine that divulges what the coming year holds in store for them. Numerous food and drink stalls line the sidewalks and shrine grounds, selling modern and traditional Japanese fare: oyaki
(steamed buns stuffed with various fillings), ramen, amazake
(a sweet rice-based beverage), and more.