Kikuma Bus Tour Spring 2018

Join us for a free bus tour around Kikuma. Take part in a local festival, visit a tile studio and try your hand at making tile art, and watch an esoteric Buddhist Goma fire ritual.

Date and time
March 21, 2018 Spring Equinox Day (holiday)  9:15 to 16:00
*The tour will go ahead despite the likely rain. Please come prepared with waterproof shoes and an umbrella.
Meeting place: Kawarakan, 3067 Kikumachōhama, Imabari 
Participation fee: Free of charge, with lunch and souvenirs

Eligibility and conditions
Parents with children. At least one adult and child. Japanese are welcome.

Entry deadline
March 20, 2018 (Tuesday)

Entry method
Please fill out the application form below and send it to


Reception: From 9:15 
*If you come by train, use the Matsuyama → Kikuma train arriving at 9:12.  
Departure: 9:45 Kawarakan → (5 minutes) → Kamo Shrine

In front of Kawarakan

10:00  Kamo Shrine
Dedicate an ema votive tablet


11:00 Kamo shrine → Waterfall

11:10 Kasen waterfall
Enjoy the festival (food stalls, drum performance etc.) *Lunch

Eating a locally prepared lunch

12:30 Waterfall → Onishi studio

12:45 Watabe onigara
Visit a Kikuma onishi tile studio

13:10 Studio →  Kawarakan

13:15 Kawarakan
Tile making workshop *1.5 to 2 hours


Making a tile lantern

15:30 Henjō-in
Goma ceremony
Questionnaire, disperse

A goma fire ritual at Henjo-in

Entry form
Please copy the following into an email, fill in the information, and send it to with the subject “Kikuma Trip”

All items are required for insurance purposes

Blood type:
Home phone:
Mobile phone:
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Transportation to Kikuma on the day: Private car, bus, JR, bicycle
Emergency contact:
Phone number:

Kikuma is a town in Imabari City, Ehime Prefecture on the island of Shikoku. It’s a coastal town located about 40 minutes by car from Dogo Onsen in Matsuyama.

From ancient times, it’s been known as the producer of Kikuma tiles, and it’s also a well-known spot for night photography of the Taiyo Oil refinery. In recent years it has frequently been featured on The Tetsuwan Dash TV program, leading to renown as a hidden centre for tradition and history.

Kamo Shrine
This shrine is said to have been built in 1087 to protect the area of Kikuma. It’s intimately related to the Kamo Shrines in Kyoto.

In Kyoto, then the capital of Japan, shrine horse races started in 540 as part of the Aoi Festival during the Heian Period. In 1093 in the Kamakura period, horse racing was established as an annual event taking place on May 5 in Kyoto’s Kamigamo Shrine. At that time, twenty manorial villages in Japan (owned by rich aristocrats or fields owned by a temple) were donated to Kamigamo Shrine to help pay for this important national ritual. Kamo shrine in Kikuma was in one of these twenty manors. In other words, Kamo Shrine was one of the manors selected to cover the cost of horse racing at the Aoi Festival, which was the forerunner of the modern big three Kyoto festivals. The names of the twenty manors are still featured in the ritual. The 17th of these is Kikuma Manor of Iyo Province.  It’s believed that Kikuma Manor made contributions to the cost of the Kamo horse racing in Kyoto, and also sent horses. Even today, a horse called “Kikuma” contests in the grounds of Kyoto’s Kamigamo Shrine. The origin of the Shinto ritual of horse racing in Ehime lies in the vassalage of the Kikuma Manor to Kamigamo Shrine in Kyoto which began long ago.

An ema is wooden board with a picture of a horse on it. These are offered to a shrine or temple when making a prayer, or in gratitude when a prayer is fulfilled. From the Nara period (700 onwards), a horse would be donated to the shrine when making a wish to the gods, since horses were considered to be messengers of the gods. However, since live horses were extremely costly, people began dedicating a horse painted on paper, and later, on wooden boards.

To ensure the best results, write a single wish plainly and clearly on the back of the ema and pray earnestly.

The horses that take part in the Kikuma Festival in mid October every year, for the last 600 years, are called Otomouma. At the Kikuma Festival, boys aged 15 or less ride richly caparisoned horses at a gallop up to Kamo Shrine. The name “Otomouma” (accompanying horse) comes from the fact that the horses that participate in the festival take part in the ritual parade accompanying the sacred palanquins, the most important aspect of the festival.

Kikuma Otomouma Horse Festival

Kikuma Festival
Designated an intangible folk cultural asset by Ehime Prefecture. For three hours from morning to noon, a number of dramatic traditional events are held in the grounds of Kamo Shrine — Otomouma horse running, a parade of divine palanquins and an ushioni, juggernauts, and a dance of shrine maidens.

Kasen Waterfall Festival
The local people call this event at the spring equinox “O-taki san”. The posthumous Buddhist names of people who have died are written on narrow wooden boards and placed in the river to be carried away by the water as a memorial service.

Kikuma Tiles
The climate of Japan is humid with a lot of rain. Kikuma’s premium “Ibushi tiles” have been made for over 750 years to protect houses from wind, rain and sunlight, to create a comfortable space. The warm, dry climate of Setouchi is good for drying tiles quickly, as well as the ease of shipping tiles on the Inland Sea, and the ready availability of wood from the mountains for stoking the kilns contributed to making Kikuma tiles one of Japan’s representative traditional crafts.

Dramatic tile art

(Oni = ogre, kara = tile). Onigara are tiles added to the end of roof gables in the form of ogres who protect the building and the people in it from disasters.

(Oni = ogre, shi = craftsman). An onishi is a craftsman who makes onigara tiles. These onigara are skillfully by hand using only clay. There are said to be only about 150 onishi in Japan.

Tile making workshop: You can try your hand at producing original works and onigara tiles using clay. There are a lot of samples for reference, and all the drawings and tools required are provided for you to make a traditional work.

An onigara tile

*You can have the tile that you make sent to you about 2 months later. (You’re required to pay the actual postage)

*If you finish quickly, you can check out the museum and park too.

In 815, Kōbō Daishi, the founder of Shingon Buddhism carved a statue of himself as protection against the misfortune said to come at the age of 42. He enshrined it as the principal image of the temple, which is now known as a place for warding off the misfortune that adheres to certain ages of life.

Every year in January and February, people come from all over Japan to pray for protection, with numbers of visitors reaching a peak at Setsubun on February 3, and every Sunday from March to December a prayer for protection is offered at noon.

Goma ceremony
A secret esoteric ritual passed down by Kōbō Daishi. In this ceremony conducted in front of a graven image of the deity Fudō, sticks inscribed with prayers symbolizing worldly desires are burned with rice, incense, oil and so on while prayers are offered for protection against misfortune and the fulfillment of aspirations. At Henjō-in, there’s a custom of transferring bad luck to straw sandals which are then burnt, preventing the misfortunes said to adhere to certain ages.

Burning sandals for luck

Exorcising bad luck
In Japan it’s said that bad luck adheres to certain years of one’s life. For men, age 42 is especially inauspicious, and for women it’s 33 years. Other ages are 4, 25 and 61 for men, and 4, 19, 37, and 61 for women. The years before and after are also risky, so the danger lasts for a total of three years. People seek to exorcise this bad luck during the relevant years. The way of calculating age is based on the year of birth, so you’re age 1 in the year of your birth, and age 2 when the next New Year comes. People who were born on 31 December will be 2 years old on the 1st of January.