Japan from the inside out

Matsuri da! (138) The turtle snake

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, December 23, 2012

CHINA is the origin for many things Japanese, but perhaps the most peculiar is the kida. That’s the main attraction of the Myokensai festival every year in Yatsushiro, Kumamoto, held by the Yatsushiro Shinto shrine. The mythical creature is said to have hitched a ride to Kumamoto on the back of a Chinese divinity.

turtle snake

Myokensai literally means “strange sight festival” and the name is a perfect fit. That’s because the kida is a part turtle and part snake. The head and neck is a serpentine one meter long, while the creature with its turtle body is four meters long in all. It’s the main attraction in a parade of nine floats and 1,500 people. Reports say shouts go up from the crowd when the kida, manipulated by five men, emerges on the banks of the Mizuna River. It’s so popular that the Yatsushiroans made a special kids kida that joined the parade for the first time in 2009. Or maybe kidas reproduce by parthenogenesis.

And speaking of strange sights, the Mizuna River is actually a subterranean river that usually has no water above ground. It fills with visible water after a heavy rain. The name for the river is another perfect fit — it’s written with the characters for “no water”.

Who knows? Maybe the habitat of the turtle snake is the unseen waters of the Mizuna River. It shows up on the street at the end of this short video.

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