Say hello to your newest recurring nightmare, kids!

Held in Miyako-jima, one of the smallest of the Okinawa Islands, Paantu is a centuries-old festival which takes place during the ninth month of the Chinese calendar each year. During the festival, groups of men are elected to dress as the paantu, evil spirits covered from head to toe with mud and foliage, and are given the task of driving out demons and cleansing the island of bad luck.

Of course, like any good festival involving involving mud-covered monsters, this also means scaring the life out of small children…

Although Paantu was once celebrated on a number of other Okinawan islands, today the only place you’ll find it is on the tiny island of Miyako-jima, some 300 kilometres southwest of Okinawa itself.

▼ Miyako-jima: a bit of a hike from the mainland.

Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 11.45.34 AMImage: Google Maps

The stars of the show are, of course, the paantu themselves, who are given the task of cleansing the island and its inhabitants. As well as being covered in mud and leaves, the men playing the part of the paantu also carry wooden masks which they hold in front of their faces as they chase men, women and children down before smothering them with the same mud with which they were painted. It is believed that being touched by a paantu in this way will bring good fortune for the coming year.

But when little kids are concerned, even benevolent figures like Santa getting too close can result in tears. So you can imagine the terror these poor tykes must feel when their parents not only allow the paantu to approach, but virtually hand them over to them.

While laughing.

Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 11.40.51 AMPhoto: Skyscraper City

▼ So much trauma.

Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 12.14.28 PMPhoto:

▼ Don’t worry, little girl, we’ll save this photo so you can sue when you’re older.

Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 11.31.06 AMScreenshot: YouTube

While the paantu have a preference for the little ones, they’re not afraid to share their good-luck mud with Miyako-jima’s older residents. If one of the paantu likes the look of someone, they’ll sprint after them and pin them to the ground, virtually tea-bagging their victim as they cover them with mud.

▼ The Paantu don’t mess around when it comes to sharing the love.

Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 11.35.27 AMPhoto: Resort Life Miyakojima

It’s not just people the paantu are after, either. Traditionally, the dirt demons will bless new houses and cars as they pass them by.

▼ You’ll be blessed with good luck as you drive to the car wash tomorrow!

Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 11.30.07 AMScreenshot: YouTube

▼ Not even the police are safe, it would seem.

Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 11.51.27 AMPhoto: Anoword

We’ll leave you with a couple of videos taken at more recent Paantu Matsuri. This year’s festival is due to be held on October 3 and 4, so if you like the idea of being chased by a monster and covered in mud, you may want to book your flight to Miyako-jima soon!

Reference/top image: Tabira Okinawa