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Miyakojima's Paantu!

This video is titled "Miyakojima Shimajiri Paantu 2018 Unesco World Cultural Heritage." (宮古島・島尻パーントゥ2018 UNESCO World cultural heritage).
It introduces the traditional festival in Miyakojima, Okinawa, "Paantu."
During the festival, supernatural gods called Paantu wear masks and chase out evils to bring luck to the villagers.

The traditional event is held in two locations in Miyakojima: the Hirano Shimajiri region and the Ueno Nohara region.
Each location has its differences.
In 1982, both events were selected as Intangible folk cultural properties, and in 1993, they were designated Important Intangible Folk Cultural Assets.
"Raihojin," (ritual visits of deities in masks and costumes) was added to UNESCO’s intangible folk cultural asset list in 2018.

Paantu and Satupunaha

According to the local history records, the origin of the word "Paantu" is a combination of two words "Paan"(to eat) and "Pitu" (people).
It has the meaning of a ghost or a demon.

"Satupunaha" (wishes for home) of Shimajiri, Miyakojima takes place three times a year. Paantu is an event that takes place at the third event and it is called Paantu Satupunaha or Paantu Punaha.
It was originally held on the "lucky day" (an unspecified day of the month) of the ninth month of the lunar calendar, but now it is held in October.

Paantu’s appearance is similar to Namahage, another spiritual creature in Japan.
Local young adult men are chosen to become Paantu and there are three roles available (Uya, Naka and Fufa). Check out the video at 0:06 to see what the Paantu look like.

The three chosen men wear ivy grass called "Shionokikazura" and apply mud from the bottom of a well called "Nmarigah," which The Nmarigah is located in the vicinity of Miyajima Elementary School, and the mud is smeared on people and houses in the pantu.

Children cry and scream and the smell of the mud is so bad that it cannot be removed for several days.
You can see the children screaming and crying at 0:14, and teenagers running away at 1:21.
Paantu even smear mud on the police car at 1:27.

Playing Tag With the Gods

Local people explain that this event is like playing tag with the gods.
The event is loved by the local people, and it's considered lucky to get muddy, as the mud will keep bad spirits away thank to its horrible smell.
At first glance, it looks scary, as you see the whole village running away, but when you see the smiling faces of the villagers after being covered with mud, you'll understand the beauty of the festival.

In recent years, the festival has been in danger of being cancelled due to complaints of being dirtied and problems with the festival causing trouble.
Paantu would smear mud on everyone, including tourists, elderly people, police, and little children.
However, the event is very important for the local people as it helps to drive out demons and cleanse the island of bad luck.
Therefore, this event still continues and only people who can accept this event should participate this event.

Please be aware that if you are visiting Shimajiri, Miyakojima during the festival, you WILL get muddy.
If you would like to know more about this event, you can also visit the Miyakojima City Museum.
At this facility, you can learn about the history of Paantu and Miyakojima.
You can also wear Paantu masks and take pictures.
The mask is said to have washed ashore on the coast of Miyakojima Island more than a hundred years ago, wrapped in kuba leaves.

Summary of Paantu

Are you looking forward to Paantu?
The unique culture of Miyakojima, a remote island, brings many visitors to the island every year.

Special goods and T-shirts are also sold, and they help stimulate the local economy, so if you're looking for souvenirs to commemorate your trip, don't miss out on them!
Bisit Shimajiri, Miyakojima and have a fun-filled experience in the mud!

【Tripadvisor】City of Miyakojima

Written By
Last Updated : Sep. 15, 2020
山本 孝(Takashi Yamamoto)
I've been a writer for seven years. I write articles on travel, food, and history.
Prepare to Get Muddy! Miyakojima, Okinawa's
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