|This article is about the annual festival in Higurashi no Naku Koro ni. For the story arc in that same series, see Watanagashi.|
|This article is about a piece of terminology in Higurashi no Naku Koro ni.|
The Watanagashi Festival (綿流しのお祭り Watanagashi no Omatsuri, Cotton-Drifting Festival), also referred to as simply the Watanagashi, is an annual festival held in Hinamizawa dedicated to their god Oyashiro-sama. The event takes place on June 19 in 1983.
Watanagashi means "cotton drifting", reflecting the purpose of the festival by sending cotton adrift in a river. However, as pointed out by Miyo Takano in Watanagashi-hen, "wata" (わた) is also a homonym for "intestines" when replaced with a different kanji character (腸). The term then changes to mean "gut-spilling" or "organ-drifting"; referencing the Watanagashi Festival's origins as a ritual ceremony involving sacrificing humans and tearing their entrails out.
The Watanagashi Festival originated in the distant past, when Hinamizawa was known as Onigafuchi. It was believed that Onigafuchi's residents were descended from demons, and as such they had periods of hunger that could only be sated by human flesh. Oyashiro-sama permitted them to go out to human villages and kidnap people, taking them back to Onigafuchi and ceremonially dissecting them before tearing them apart and feasting on the remains; this is how the Watanagashi, the "gut-spilling" got its name. Various kinds of implements were devised to torture sacrifices in such a way as to keep them alive as long possible, something thought to be done as a form of entertainment for onlookers. Over 200 types of implements were created, with many of them stored in the Furude Shrine's ritual warehouse.
Other sacrifices were used to calm Oyashiro-sama's wrath. They were wrapped in bamboo mats and submerged in the swamp, where they would drown and sink to the bottom over a course of three days. This was interpreted as the villagers submerging Oyashiro-sama's wrath itself.
The Three Families oversaw and performed the Watanagashi for years, but it is suggested that they also carried it out as a deterrent; they were the rulers of Onigafuchi and performed the sacrifices to reinforce that they were in charge and to encourage villagers to follow along with their religion. Due to the decline of the Kimiyoshi and Furude Families, the Watanagashi fell out of practice.
Modern Day Presentation
The modern day Watanagashi Festival has moved away from its gory past and at first was just a way for village council members to get drunk while pretending they were hosting a festival. After the dam war, Hinamizawa's council made reparations with the Japanese government and has since received lots of funding, allowing them to grow and improve the festival. With the revitalized Watanagashi Festival sticking closer to its roots as a religious festival, villagers have been attending it every year in droves, however this is rumored to be out of fear of being cursed by Oyashiro-sama. The new Watanagashi is held every year on a certain Sunday in June, with the Furude Shrine becoming a sort of fairground where villagers can have fun eating vendor food and playing stall games.
The festival is also meant to celebrate the end of winter and to give thanks to cotton items like futons for keeping villagers safe over the years. Before the Watanagashi, villagers donate used futons to the Furude Shrine, and these are used in a ritual at the end of the festival. The head Furude priest or priestess performs a dance with a ceremonial farm hoe and tears out the cotton from the collected futons, sacrificially purifying them. After the performance, the cotton is gathered up and passed out to attendants, who give a prayer of thanks to Oyashiro-sama and touch the cotton all over their bodies, absorbing the evil that possesses them. The cotton is finally set adrift in the river
- In Umineko no Naku Koro ni Episode 7: Requiem of the Golden Witch, Bernkastel performs an act similar to the classic Watanagashi on Clair. Her scythe also parallels the sacrificial hoe used by Rika Furude for the Watanagashi ritual dance.