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 old for men and 33 years old for women, but who’s counting..?) shall become Gods of Fortune for one night ! Pretty cool, right?
The idea is to “fool” people by painting your whole face with a white greasepaint and to put on the disguise you want so they would not recognize you (in theory) and, above all, so they would not know you are one of the “unlucky ones”.
(You shall fear the Frieza God and validate your train ticket)
In people’s eye you become a God of Fortune. Once you evolved to this God level, you go knocking on people’s door (like Halloween) with your group of Gods friends, go in and then proceed to the “yakubarai”, 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 like Halloween) called Shochu.
(Shochu: 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 with ridiculous costumes (except for me, my costume was awesome) to see them dance around and probably scare their children?”
But I was wrong. This is not the right way to see it! People are actually expecting you. Of course they are waiting for you to give them luck for the whole 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 thoughts, stories and laughs. Even if, basically, you don’t know each other, this is all about meeting people and sharing fun! You deeply feel the kindness of Japanese people and their sense of hospitality. I was served amazing food all night and I met so many people I lost count but every encounter was different and beautiful.
This was truly a great experience! Hard to say how many houses we visited, my memory started to fail after 4 glasses of Shochu… but I had a great time, I met, talked and laughed with so many people. I felt very lucky to have been able to participate in this old Mokkanjin tradition! The 14th of January was on a Sunday but no one seemed to care that the day after we had to go to work… I think I went home around 11pm, very fresh and clear-headed (of course).
(Calling my mum to tell her about the great party I just had)
However I was told that some of my fellows Gods continued all night long. I was also told that some years, people just went to work without going home, cleaning up or changing their clothes. Must have been a very productive day ..!
That’s all for our Mokkanjin experience. I hope you enjoyed our 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: