Unique Winter Offerings in Tsukuba : Two-Pronged Daikon Radish (FUTAMATA DAIKON)
By Avi Landau
Let me tell you about a fascinating local custom. It involves FUTAMATA-DAIKON(二股大根),which is the Japanese term for a double-pronged daikon radish. These two-legged curiosities turn up at a surprisingly high rate when farmers harvest their daikon crop in late autumn.The abberant shapes are caused by small rocks,hard clumps of soil or fertilizer,insects, or uneven distribution of irrigation water.
The futamata daikon cannot be found on sale in stores or stalls , and in fact, though perfectly edible, they are traditionally NOT eaten. When I asked several local farmers why this was so, they all came out with the same response, in tones implying that I shouldnt have had to ask
such a question-we dont eat them because they look like peoples legs!
Due to this resemblance to the lower half of the human body, local farmers show reverence and do not simply discard these unsellable roots which are not to be eaten, for it is believed that the disrespect of doing so would bring on leg or foot trouble.
What is done then with these significantly shaped vegetables?
In Tsukuba, the rest of Ibaraki Prefecture and in some outlying areas farmers offer the futamata daikon to a type of sekibutsu(sacred stone) called a dosojin(道祖神),the protector of travellers, roads and the entrance to villages. I suppose that I dont have to point out the
connection between travel and legs(oops, I just did!).locals leave futamata daikon and a variety of foot-wear(anything from straw sandals to sneakers) in front of the dosojin to pray for healthy legs feet and lower back.
This week I have found and photographed dozens of plump and juicy offerings which are rustically photogenic.They will be left exposed to the elements and as the weeks go by they will become the dried out and scrawny shadows that you might find next summer.
Let me make one very important point clear.Though the offering of futamata daikon to dosojin is a VERY localized custom and unfamiliar to most Japanese, dosojin stones are generally known and found throughout Japan. They are most famous in Nagano Prefecture, especially around the beautiful town of Azumino
These dosojin,however, look completely different from most of their Ibaraki counterparts and also have a totally different significance. The typical image of the dosojin is a stone carving of a loving couple, set on the roadside.Making offerings to them can be efficacious for matchmaking and fertility.In Tsukuba almost all the dosojin I have found are simple stones with only the characters 道祖神 engraved on them.
In Dejima and Yasato I have found very special dosojin with graven images of a single one-legged man.This shows further how in this area these sekibutsu are associated with legs and feet.
If you put in some leg work you might be able to find examples of this custom. You`ll be able to get some great pictures.
I’m not pulling your leg!
I have also posted this article on my TenGooz Blog (on my band`s website)