Negi-san, the chief priest of the Aruka Shrine, has been performing the green onion ceremony for about four years, but it only went viral last year, when photos of the priest in the bizarre headgear went viral on Japanese social media. . It was pretty weird to watch, even by Japanese standards, but that just made it more interesting. Here was this masked priest, dressed in a green skirt and white shirt to match the green-and-white green onions on their heads, bending over to pass through a small circle wrapped in rope. It made no sense, and yet everyone was intrigued.
The ritual of the green onion was inspired by the chief priest’s desire to soften the formal and rigid perception of religion and clergy. A few years ago, 49-year-old Miwako Kojima put on a fake panda head and became Panda Myiaji, a sweet character design to attract more people to Aruka Shrine. Then, in 2017, Kojima got a new idea. The head priest’s name “negi” had the same pronunciation as the word “onion” in Japanese, so she decided to create a new character and ritual around that likeness. And so Negi Head was born.
Negi’s head wears a combination of green and white, but the accessory that stands out first is the 2-foot-long headpiece in the shape of a green onion. It is made of white cardboard wrapped with imitation paper sold in a stationery store, over which paraffin paper is layered and secured with adhesive tape.
It is not the ideal headgear to wear for indoor rituals as it can be difficult to get through doorways, so most of the ceremonies performed by Negi Head take place outdoors. The most iconic ritual is the passing of the chief priest through a small “onion circle”. Negi’s head bends over to go head first through the circle, as a way of praying for peace and disaster relief.
A video of this year’s onion ritual recently went viral on Twitter. It showed Negi Head struggling to get his onion headgear through the smaller circle, which, to be fair, was lowered and smaller this year, probably to make the ritual more challenging.
The popularity of the Negi head has inspired other priests at the shrine to make their own onion headgear, and visitors to the Aruka Shrine can see them all performing all sorts of strange rituals and dances.
To follow Negi Head’s exploits, follow the official Aruka Shrine Twitter account, where Miwako Kojima regularly posts photos and videos.
So what do you think of Negi Head and the green onion ritual? Have you ever seen anything more Japanese?