INSIDER ARTICLE : Mokkan .. what? Mokkanjin!
Never heard of Mokkanjin? I must say this is no surprise as it is a very old and very local tradition. The two main places to experience this tradition are Kobayashi and Ebino (Miyazaki prefecture).
Mokkanjin is happening every year on the 14th of January. People in their “unlucky year” (43 years of age for men and 33 years of age for women, but who’d ever let their real age be known..?) shall become god of fortune for one night ! Pretty cool, right?
The idea of the fancy make-up is to “fool” people by painting one’s whole face with white greasepaint (and red and black) and disguising onself so no one will recognize you (in theory). The important point being that no one think about the fact that you are actually in your unlucky year.
(You shall fear the Frieza God and validate your train ticket)
In people’s eye you become a god of fortune. Once you’ve evolved to this god level, you go knocking on people’s doors (like on Halloween) with your group of god friends, go in and then proceed to the “yakubarai” part, which is the cleansing of evil influences. You dance around and sweep up the evil presence with a broom (yes, with a broom). After removing all the evil influences, people offer you a glass of liquor (not quite like on Halloween) called shōchū.
Shōchū: 25% alcohol sweet potato liquor a.k.a the true evil
When this whole tradition was explained to me, I first thought “why on earth would Japanese people open their door to drunk people in ridiculous costumes (except for me, my costume was awesome) to see them dance around and probably scare their children?”
But I got it wrong. This is totally not the right way to see it!
People are actually expecting you. Of course they are waiting for you to bring them luck for the coming year, but it goes beyond that. People are glad that this tradition is still alive and are looking forward to this simple but wonderful moment where you share the local tradition as well as thoughts, stories and laughs.Even if, basically, you don’t know each other, this is all about meeting people and sharing a moment of fun! You can deeply feel the kindness of the Japanese people and taste a glimpse of their understanding of hospitality. I was served amazing food all trough the night and I met so many people I lost count, but every encounter was different and precious.
Mokkanjin for me was truly a great experience! It’s hard to say how many houses we visited, my memory started to fail me after 4 glasses of shōchū… but I had a great time! I got to meet, talk to and laugh with so many people. I feel very lucky to have been able to participate in this old tradition!
Despite the 14th of January being a Sunday, no one seemed to care that the following day we had to go to work…
Calling my mum to tell her about the great party I just had
I think I went home around 11pm, very fresh and clear-headed (of course). However I was told that some of my fellow gods continued all night long. I was also told that in some years, people just go to work without going home, cleaning up or changing their clothes. Those must be incredibly productive days..!
That’s all for my Mokkanjin experience. I hope you enjoyed the short article about it!
If you have any questions about it, or if you want to participate next year, feel free to contact us 😊
Here are some pictures of our awesome Mokkanjin day (and night) and our home-made trailer: