A boy dressed as an “aooni” (blue demon) appears at the Akumikanbe Shinmeisha shrine in Toyohashi, Aichi Prefecture, surrounded by male parishioners and later parades around the town. Other children participate in the festival by playing musical instruments and dancing on Feb. 10. (Takashi Miyazawa)

TOYOHASHI, Aichi Prefecture--A red demon ran riot here Feb. 11 until it was finally apprehended by a god of justice and decency.

It all kicked off when the muscular and mischievous “akaoni” (red demon) approached the samurai-armor wearing “bushin” and gestured provocatively.

The rambunctious crimson creature then ran off just as the bushin was about to turn it into "yakitori" skewered meat using his “naginata” long sword.

These shenanigans continued until the fiend fled from the powerful bushin.

The ritual, “Akaoni to tengu no karakai” (battle between akaoni and bushin), was the climax of the Toyohashi Onimatsuri demon festival at the Akumikanbe Shinmeisha shrine.

The main feature held on the second day of the two-day event, it originated in “dengaku” traditional farming dances as part of festivals that locals prayed would result in a good harvest.

After the akaoni fled, “tankiri ame” candy and white powder, charms against bad luck, were thrown, and the crowd cheered loudly with relief.

On the morning of Feb. 10, the first day of the festival, another ritual was held where a local boy dressed as an “aooni” (blue demon) appeared.

This “Iwatomai” dance performance on the shrine stage was based on a famous Japanese myth. As the story goes, the sun goddess Amaterasu Omikami gets so angry over her brother’s boisterous acts that she hides herself in a rock cave. As the world becomes dark without the sun, other gods discuss what to do, dance outside the rock, and finally Amaterasu Omikami emerges.

After the show, the aooni threw tankiri ame candy from the stage, and later a troupe including the aooni paraded around the town amid light rain until shortly after 4 p.m. Back at the shrine, the demon, showing little sign of exhaustion, went through the whole program again.

The annual festival was designated as an important intangible folk cultural property by the government in 1980.