Setsubun sai

Chinowa (straw rings) are given to visitors, the old tradition originated with the "Somin Shoorai" myth.  Susa Jinja is the only shrine in Japan that this ritual is performed on February Setsubun day.  According to an essay written for the Japan Folklore Study Report by Prof. Ohmori, this is the proof of the close connection between Susa and the god Susano-o.

Somin Shourai

Once, when a Kami called Mutou-no-kami from the North Sea was travelling to the South Sea, the sun went down.  At this place there were brothers Somin Shourai and Kotan Shorai,  The elder brother Somin Shourai was very poor, but the younger brother was very rich owning as many as 100 warehouses.  The Kami asked the younger brother if he could stay the night, but he was refused.  The elder brother Somin Shourai kindly welcomed the Kami.  However, he was so poor he could only offer a straw bed instead of sheets, and could only offer a poor millet dinner instead of rice. It was all he could do to welcome the Kami.

The next day, the Kami left.  Several years later, the Kami dropped in at Somin Shorai on the way home with his eight children.  He said "To respond to Kotan Shourai's behaviour, and to repay you for letting me stay the night, I would like to do something for you.  Do you have children and grandchildren?"  Somin Shourai replied "I have a wife and a daughter".  The Kami continued "Wear this Chinowa ring made of reeds around your waist.".  He did as he was told.  That night, everyone in the village was killed, except Somin Shourai, his wife and their daughter.

Afterwards the Kami explained "I'm Susano-o-no-mikoto.  In the future when you face any plague, your descendants must tell people that they are Somin Shourai's descendants, and wear a Chinowa ring.  All who wear a Chinowa ring will be protected from plague."

Because of this myth the Chinowa Ring is regarded as a spiritual Shinto talisman against plague and disasters.

At Susa Jinja Chinowa rings and cards bearing the words "Somin Shourai's descendants" are given to visitors at every Setsubun sai festival.  Visitors wear the Chinowa ring around their necks to take it home, then hang it at the entrance porch or the door for protection from epidemics and disasters.