Asakusa’s Tori no Ichi festival which takes place annually in November on the days of the rooster (modeled after the Chinese lunar calendar system that features a repeating cycle of days associated with the zodiac animals, the days of the rooster appear every 12 days) is one of the areas most lively events.
Having been held since the Edo era, the event has long been associated with wishes of good harvest, good fortune, good health and good business. These days, the festival is frequented by a large mix of business owners and individuals who come to take part and pray for a prosperous year.

A major part of the festival is the sales of vibrantly decorated bamboo rakes known in Japanese as ‘kumade’. A popular buy amongst business owners attending the event, kumade are believed to be able to ‘rake’ in good fortune for the upcoming year. Superstition calls that to bring in more prosperity, a business owner should purchase a larger kumade each year, and as such, the event is filled with rakes of all sizes and decorations.

If buying the biggest rake available isn’t going to quite cut it when it comes to bringing in the annual good fortune, there is now a way to send your kumade into outer space where it will collect good luck from around the earth.

This special opportunity has been put together by Mitsui Bussan Aerospace and rake manufacturing company Omogame as a way to wish for better days following the global spread of COVID-19.

Of course, sending any material into space comes with a rather hefty price tag, and this special kumade is no different, being available for the jaw-dropping price of 2021 million yen (and yes, the price is based on the current year).

Price tags aside, the rake that is to be sent into space will be mounted onto a 10cm cubic microsatellite before being handed over to JAXA, who will launch it into outer space via a rocket. The released microsatellite will then fly around the earth at an altitude of around 400km, where it will ‘collect the fortunes of the universe’ for around 6 months to a year.
Gradually, the microsatellite wil lower in altitude and eventually burn out into the atmosphere (it will not remain as space debris).
In addition to the rake that is to be sent into space, the purchaser will be provided with an earth-bound rake with the same specifications that can be worshipped on the ground.

Though small in size, the rake is made and decorated with 15 traditional, modern and superstitious objects:

1 – "Okame". The female mask often featured in the center of a kumade, this time Okame is wearing a space suit helmet for the long journey into outer space.
2 – The Seven lucky gods. Normally depicted aboard a ship, this time the seven lucky gods have arranged a special treasure spaceship for carrying good fortune across the universe.
3 – The sickness-fighting yokai monster Amabie is being sent out along with the rake to pray for the end of the coronavirus.
4 – Planets and Stars.
5 – The name of the purchaser will be put onto a nameplate made of cypress wood, which is considered to be a sacred wood in Japanese tradition.
6 – An original decoration of the purchaser's choice, which will bring in good prosperity to their own business.
7 – The rake's “claw” stretches out radially and is adorned with rhinestones that represent the 12 power stones of each month.
8 – The “mount” of the rake features a design of outer space on the front and a design of the earth on the back as a prayer for balance in the universe.
9 – A traditional Japanese ‘Sea Bream’ charm will see the fish “swim” in the sea of space for the first time.
10 – Round rice bales pray for a fruitful harvest in the upcoming year.
11 – A Shimena is included to mark the boundary between our world and that of the spiritual world.
12 – Traditional lucky kanji charms symbolise a fusion of older traditions and the new.
13 – Rice ears arranged in a ‘figure of 8’ represent the wish of a good harvest.
14 – Chiyogami decoration paper is used as the ‘base’ of the rake, and features a design that imitates the layout of the stars.
15 – Black bamboo is used for the rake’s handle, representing the image space and symbolising youth, longevity and strength.

There is only one rake available to send into space this year, and if enough people apply, a special lottery will be held to announce the purchaser.
To get a good look at the rake before it takes on its journey around the universe head on over to Asakusa’s Tori no Ichi event on this Sunday the 21st of November 2021.

By - Connie Sceaphierde.