Mibu no Hana Taue,  the ritual of transplanting rice in Mibu,  Hiroshima Japanese

@Mibu no Hana Taue, the ritual of transplanting rice in Mibu, Hiroshima was registered by UNESCO for Intangible Cultural Heritage Status in November, 2011.

"Mibu no Hana Tauef is a Japanese agricultural ritual carried out by the Mibu community in Kitahiroshima Town, Hiroshima Prefecture, to assure an abundant rice harvest by honouring the rice deity. It is carried out on the first Sunday of June every year after actual rice transplantations in the community are completed.

On the day of the ritual, villagers bring more than ten cattle to Mibu shrine to be adorned with elaborately decorated saddles called Hanagura, and colourful necklaces. Hanagura are sculptured in the shape of helmets and decorated gorgeously with gold-leaf or lacquer.The saddle weighs 20 to 30 kg, including its flags and artificial flowers.

It is believed that Hana Taue originated either as a religious performance to ask for a rich harvest, or as entertainment to ease the pains of hardworking farmers, dating from at least the Edo period, and possibly much earlier.

Cattlefs hooves churn and loosen the earth in preparation for laying seedlings. This operation is called shirokaki. After the cattle have ploughed the field, colorfully dressed girls called Saotome place seedlings inside cases called naebune while singing a song conducted by an older man, known as a Sambai. Sambai, named after the deity of rice fields, are in charge of the smooth execution of the entire ritual and are familiar with the songs and music associated with rice planting. Then, a man known as an Eburitsuki begins to level the rice field with a tool, called an Eburi. It is said that the deity of rice fields rests on Eburi.

Transplantation begins in the presence of the deity. Saotome faced by Sambai transplant the seedlings one by one, walking backwards in line. While the Sambai  sings a leading song, locally considered as a parent song, holding a Sasara, lengthwise-cut bamboo stick. Saotome sing another song, locally considered as a childfs song. The Eburitsuki and the person who carries the seedlings in Naebune follow the Saotome, and level the rice field as the seedlings are planted. A musical band follows them, and plays the drums, flutes and small gongs accompanying the songs of Sambai and Saotome. Once this ritual transplantation is completed, the eburi is placed upside down in water with three bunches of rice seedlings. Some say that the deity of rice fields resides in this eburi, while others say the deity launches from it and goes back to the heavens.

In Chiyoda, it is said that it never rains on the day of Hana Taue; it is believed that it will be sunny even if it rained heavily the day before.