A short article translated about the festival called Sōjinsai in Saitama prefecture. The main aim of the event is to banish the evil deities causing plagues and illness.
It's always held on the second Sunday of April.
In the town of Tokigawa in Saitama Prefecture there is a festival for gods of pestilence (疫病神yakubyōkami*) called Sōjinsai (送神祭) during which people pray them for them to go away and for Spring to come.Sōjinsai is a traditional festival that's been held in Tokigawa town, Ōno district, since the Edo period. It was held for the first time in Tenmei period (1781-1789, reigning Emperor: Kōkaku tennō, addendum by me) when the plague hit after a long period of famine** and people started praying to pestilence gods to chase the disease away.On April 9th, around 100 people from Ōno Shrine gathered, holding flags with signs reading “Sending the Devils Away” (悪魔送神祭), playing on flutes and drums, starting from a small village among the blooming cherry blossoms, they walked around 4 km. Among them some carried a mikoshi, inside which there is an offering made from the rice flour to entice to gods.When the group arrived at the borders of the district, Shinto priest has pierced the offering carried inside the mikoshi with a blade, thus praying for Spring arrival.One 62 years-old man participating in the event said: “I wish the district residents could stay healthy during this year.”
* adapted from Chinese 瘟神,Wen shen. The belief in gods or groups of gods responsible for plague, illness etc.
** Ended in 1783 after 8 years.
More about the cultural heritage in Tokigawa here. In Japanese though.
More about the festival (with pics) here. In Japanese too...
Translated from here
Picture from here.