Rissho Kosei-kai Buddhist Church of Hawaii members chant, play the flute, bell and drum while others twirl the matoi. The traditional matoi consists of a body called “toban” made of wood or brass & “baren” hanging strips of leather or paper. The toban sits on a wooden staff with a metal bottom & weighs 45 pounds. Rissho Kosei-kai uses the matoi during parades because the enthusiasm used to hoist and twirl the matoi is symbolic of the way one should embrace life and Buddhist teachings.
In ancient Edo Japan, there were many fires in the city. Firefighting units would rush to a fire and raise a matoi to encourage their Hikeshi (firemen) to put out the fire. One Hikeshi from each of the fire companies would twirl the matoi atop the burning building so other members of the company would fight the fire desperately in order to prevent the matoi from burning. Each fire company had its own matoi decorated with unique engravings and paintings.