The Aruka Shrine in Japan’s Ebina City is the oldest shrine in all of Sagami Province, but to the general public it’s known for a unique ceremony that involves a priest wearing a 2-meter-long headgear in the shape of a green onion.
Negi-san, the head priest at Aruka Shrine has been performing the green onion ceremony for about four years , but it only went viral last year, when photos of the priest wearing the bizarre headgear went viral on Japanese social media.
It was a pretty weird thing to see, even by Japanese standards, but that only made it more interesting. Here was this masked priest wearing a green skirt and white shirt matching the green-and-white green onion on their head bending over to pass through a small circle wrapped in rope. It made no sense, and yet, everyone was intrigued.
The green onion ritual was inspired by the head priest’s desire to soften the formal and stiff perception of religion and clergy. A few years ago, 49-year-old Miwako Kojima put on a fake panda head and became Panda Myiaji, a lovable character design to attract more people to Aruka Shrine. Then, in 2017, Kojima got a new idea. The name of the head priest “negi” had the same pronunciation as the word “onion” in Japanese, so she decided to create a new character and ritual around that similarity. And that’s how Negi Head was born.
Negi head wears a combination of green and white, but the accessory that first stands out is the 2-meter-long headgear shaped like a green onion. It is made of white cardboard wrapped with imitation paper sold at a stationery store, over which paraffin paper is layered and fixed with masking tape.
It’s not the ideal headgear to wear for indoor rituals, because of how difficult getting through doorways can be, so most of the ceremonies performed by Negi head take place outdoors. The most iconic ritual is the passing of the head priest through a small “onion circle”. Negi head bends over in order to pass head-first through the circle, as a way to pray for peace and disaster relief.
A video of this year’s onion ritual recently went viral on Twitter. It showed Negi Head struggling to get his onion headgear through the smaller circle, which, to be fair, was lowered and got smaller this year, probably to make the ritual more of a challenge.The popularity of Negi head has inspired other priests at the shrine to make their own onion-shaped headgears, and visitors at the Aruka Shrine can see all of them performing all sorts of weird rituals and dances.To follow the exploits of Negi Head, follow the official Aruka Shrine Twitter account, where Miwako Kojima frequently posts photos and videos.
So what do you think about Negi Head and the green onion ritual? Have you ever seen anything more Japanese?