"Warai Koh" - Thanksgiving Association in Yamaguchi
Japan is a melting pot of legendary rituals, and you'll get a kick out of a thanksgiving "laughter" association in Yamaguchi, southern Japan. It's called "warai koh" - warai for laughter and koh for association. Thanksgiving is your equivalent to this unique intangible cultural asset.
For 800 years since the Kamakura Era, the first Sunday in December has always been earmarked by the Komata Hachiman Shrine in Yamaguchi for this most extraordinary ritual. The villagers take turn in running the ritual, the headman, called "toya", will call other members of the koh or association to his home - some 20 members were invited this year to execute the ritual.
The ritual proceeds as the members are first grouped in pairs of two. Pairs of two sit face to face, each holding a branch of Sakaki plant or Japanese cleyera - a divine plant that plays key roles in Shinto rituals.
Now, the two with Sakaki in their hands laugh out loud to the tune of a drum - three times. The first laughter symbolizes thanks and gratitudes to the year's harvest, the second to pray for equally rich harvest in the year to follow, and the last laughter to forget the year's worth of agonies and strifes.
The general participants joined in the laughter association , each laughing his/her guts out - some stamping as they laughed, others shaking the sakaki branches so wild that the leaves would scatter about. The philosophy is the louder the laughter, the merrier the life.
A male participant said smiling:
"I laughed another gorgeous laugh this year. I'm sure this will bring me a great year next year."
Laughing your troubles away is one cool act of wisdom. The fancy part of it is that Japan has made it a serious ritual - Warai Koh". (Nathan Shiga)