What is 初午Hatsu-uma?

Hatsu-uma is a very important matsuri for an Inari Shrine.
Hatsu-uma means “the first day of the Horse”.
It is said that Uka-no-mitama-no-kami, who as you may know is Inari Ōkami-sama, descended to Mt. Inari on the first Horse Day in February, in the year 711 (和銅4年). All Inari Jinja (Inari Shinto Shrine) celebrate that event, on the first Horse Day in the second month of the year.

How do we count the day of Horse?
As you may know, the 12 zodiac signs, (十二支in Japanese) are:
Rat 子(ね)・Ox 丑(うし)・Tiger 寅(とら)・Rabbit 卯(う)・Dragon 辰(たつ)・Snake 巳(み)・Horse 午(うま)・Sheep 未(ひつじ)・Monkey 申(さる)・Chicken 酉(とり)・Dog 戌(いぬ)・Wild Boar 亥(いのしし)

The short version of determining the date is to put the zodiac signs in the calendar in zodic order which has been used since ancient times.
2021 starts with the Chicken (January first), so January 2nd is the Dog, 3rd is the Wild Boar and so on.
Actually, the first Horse Day in 2021 was January 10th.
However, the first Horse Day important to Hatsu-uma t is the first Horse Day in February. February 2nd is the Snake, so now you know when is the first Horse Day in February in this year. YES, it's February 3rd.

It is a very unusual coincidence that Risshun, the first day of spring is also the first Horse Day!

It is said that Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto on Inariyama (Mt. Inari) is the headquarters of all Inari Shrines. Fushimi Inari holds Hatsu-uma Sai, February 3rd (2021). They are celebrating this very important day which we can say is the day of the beginning of Inari.

Fushimi Inari Taisha and some of Inari Shrines celebrate the solar calendar’s the first Horse Day in February with the solar calendar to hold Hatsuuma Sai, Hatsuuma Matsuri.

However, our main shrine, Shusse Inari Jinja holds Hatsu-uma Sai on the lunar calendar’s Hatsu-uma, the first Horse Day which is March 23rd, 2021. (See the Calendar page for the date in future years https://shintoinari.org/calendar-event/hatsuuma/).

By this reckoning, the lunar calendar’s January is the first month of the year. This year’s January 1st in the lunar calendar is February 12th in the solar calendar. February 1st in the lunar calendar is March 13th in the solar calendar which is the day of Monkey. the Horse is 10th zodiac from Monkey. So plus 10 is March 23rd! Voila!

Uka-no-mitama-no-kami descended on Mt. Inari on the lunar calendar’s first Horse Day in the 2nd month. It is usually close to the Spring Equinox. 2021's Spring Equinox Day is March 20th. This is the time when the weather is definitely getting warm in Japan, animals appear frequently in the fields, and plants start to grow and bloom. We are sure people during ancient times felt the blessings of Inari Ōkami-sama just the same as we do in this modern age. It is also said Hatsu-uma Sai was merged with the Spring Matsuri which was the “Praying for a Good Harvest” matsuri in ancient times.
Shusse Inari Jinja has always held the Spring Matsuri at the same time as Hatsu-uma.

Shinto Shrine of Shusse Inari in America will hold Hatsu-uma Sai on March 23rd, 2021.
What do people do on the Hatsu-uma Sai?
Traditionally people visit an Inari Shrine, known as the “Lucky Visit.” It is believed visiting brings good fortune to you.

We hope you will join our Hatsu-uma Sai & Haru Matsuri livestream service and receive a good fortune from Inari Ōkami-sama.

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