Strange Festival in Miyako Island “Pantu”
post : 2014.10.10 18:00
In Shimajiri Region of Miyako Island, there is a venerated ritual that has been passed down from the ancient times. Visiting gods called “pantu,”who are believed to be born from the spring of sludge, covered in mud roam around the town, splashing mud on people to ward off evil spirits.
There are three pantu visiting gods.
Wearing masks, wrapping kyan (common derris) around the body, covered with mud from the head to the toes, they smell awful!
Why are they all in mud? Why are the venerated gods wearing mask?
What kind of festival on earth is this?
A long time ago, a mask wrapped by leaves of kuba (fan palm) was washed up on Kubama shore of Mutuzuma, where the Shimajiri Community was established, which they call “Oya (parent) pantu,” and now they have “Naka (middle) pantu” and “Ko (child) pantu,” totally three pantu masks.
There is an ubuga (a spring used for bathing and giving a ritual service for a new-born baby) at the south end of the community. The ubuga there is not only for bathing a baby but also for purifying the dead, which makes it a sacred place where souls are transmigrated.
Every year pantu are also born in this ubuyu and on the ritual day they become all mud. That’s how three gods in material form are born from under the ground.
Pantu also means “devil.” No wonder they look so scary.
Once pantu appear in the community, everybody runs away.
Pantu not only gives you a strong impression by their looks but also run very fast.
Suddenly they come out from a path, so you have to run away desperately!
It is considered to be holy onigokko (tag or it).
The formal name of this ritual is “Pantupunaha.”
Those who are caught by pantu get mud on faces and clothes, but will have a year of protection.
This is a highly respectable ritual, which was designated a national intangible important cultural property in 1982.
Many spectators come with their children. As scary pantu approach them, most of the children cry and scream.
I asked parents why they brought their children here though well aware that the kids were going to cry loudly.
Most of the parents answered, “We participated in this event with a wish for a healthy growth of my child.”
Several parents said “Nowadays, our children won’t listen to us. So I told them “If you won’t listen to what Dad and Mom say, pantu will come to you!” We brought them here for a discipline”
Thus, it seems that the local people sometimes have been showing a reverential attitude and sometimes having a discipline for their children since the old time through community events,
In addition, a pregnant lady had her belly touched by pantu for wishing a safe delivery.
“I hope I will have a healthy baby.”
This ritual is usually held in around September of the lunar calendar, but we cannot tell until just before it happens.
I hope you are lucky enough to participate in “Pantupunaha.”
When you face pantu, your clothes and camera might get dirty, so please wear something you can get mud on and have pantu banish evil spirits!
Originally pantu are meant to come to splash mud on people, which thankfully protects you against evils.
As it is an important culture for the locals, please respect it, fully understand the significance and join them!
Date of Event: Around September of the lunar calendar ( Unknown until just before the event)
Okinawa CLIP Photo Writer Hiroshi Kuwamura (KUWA)