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Yaya Festival

Yamagata Prefecture

A ritual made to wish for the future health and strength of children.

Each year dozens of young boys from the ages of five to fourteen years old brave the freezing cold temperatures of January to take part in a unique winter festival where they must face a test of intense physical and mental rigor.

Wearing only straw skirts and straw sandals, these children are doused with frigid shrine water by the priests of the Chigawara Hachiman Shrine in Shonai Town. This ritual is made to wish for the future health and strength of the children of this community and draws out huge crowds in this otherwise quiet countryside town.

This intensive trial is held for the blessings of robust health and the safe delivery of babies in these villages.

This ritual lasts about an hour, but you may wish to arrive there early if you want to get a good spot to take photos.

Seeing the photos of this festival is one thing, but one can only gain a true appreciation for the bravery of these children by standing out in the numbing cold in the middle of January and seeing this festival in person. All will find it incredibly difficult to fathom trading places with these small kids.

A young boy takes part in the Yaya ritual of Shonai.
The Yaya Festival

Quick Info


This event is free to see.

Opening Hours

The date of the Yaya Festival varies from year to year, but always takes place on the Sunday closest to January 15th. This festival starts at 1 pm.

Average Duration

1 – 2 hours


Maeno-359-1 Chigawara, Shonai, Higashitagawa District, Yamagata 999-7704

Other tips

This festival takes place even in sub-zero temperatures or snow. Heavy blizzards may however cause this event to be rescheduled.