What is 初午Hatsu-uma?

Hatsu-uma is a very important matsuri for Inari Shrines.
Hatsu-uma means “the first day of the Horse”.
It is said that Uka-no-mitama-no-kami, who is Inari Ōkami-sama, descended to Mt. Inari on the first Horse Day in February (Lunar Calendar), 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 zodiac order which has been used since ancient times.

To calculate the first horse day in February, start with the zodiac animal for January first, and then count in order. For example if January 1st is Chicken, then January 2nd is Dog, 3rd is the Wild Boar and so on.

It is said that Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto on Inariyama (Mt. Inari) is the head of all Inari Shrines. They are celebrating this very important day which is the founding day of Fushimi Inari Taisha.

Fushimi Inari Taisha and some other Inari Shrines celebrate Hatsu-uma-sai (Hatsu-uma Matsuri). on the first Horse Day in February using the solar calendar. However, our parent shrine, Shusse Inari Jinja, holds Hatsu-uma-sai using the lunar calendar. (See the Calendar page for the date https://shintoinari.org/calendar-event/hatsuuma/).

By the lunar calendar reckoning, the first month of the year is not the solar calendar’s January. For example, if 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! [Note: The dates are based on 2021, other years will vary.]

Uka-no-mitama-no-kami descended on Mt. Inari on the lunar calendar’s first Horse Day in the 2nd month. This day is usually close to the Spring Equinox. It 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.

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 ceremony and receive a good fortune from Inari Ōkami-sama.

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