Saturday, November 1, 2014

Autumn Matsuri 2014 part 3


On the sunday morning all signs of the previous night had disappeared and ceremonies were held. The first took place in front of a side altar. There was no musical accompaniment. After reading out a norito, the priest then read out the names of the handful of us who were taking part. We were then purified with an onusa and one by one called up and given a drink of omiki and a part of the mochi that had been used as offerings to the kami. The folded paper also contained some grains of the rice that had also been on the altar.


The next ceremony was a much grander affair with taiko and flute accompaniment. The village elders set offering upon the elder and norito were read, Once again there was purification. At the end of the ceremony the kami was transfered into the mikoshi which had been brought into the shrine.


When I first moved to the village I asked about the mikoshi and was told that there were not enough men nowadays to be able to carry the mikoshi. A recent survey of villagers showed that the villagers wanted the mikoshi procession to be revived. This was the first time in 14 years.


The mikoshi was really heavy as we carefully manhandled it down the steep steps. From the shrine it was then carried around the village. The roads where we passed were lined with a simple shimenawa. In the middle of the village another short ceremony was performed. The priests and musicians followed along.


Many of the older people who came out of their houses as the mikoshi passed were really pleased to see the mikoshi again. Once acrried back up the shrine steps and deposited back in the shrine we all shared some more omiki.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Autumn Matsuri 2014 part 2


When we arrived at the shrine at 10:30 the Shioharae was in progress. This is usually the second dance of the night and purifies the dance area for the rest of the nights performances. It is a shinji, a ceremonial dance as opposed to a theatrical dance. There was a TV crew from Tokyo filming the visiting American "dancer" and I found the performance of the audience a little disconcerting.


Next up was Yumi Hachiman, a 2 man dance featuring the hero Hachiman, the patron kami of the shrine, defeating a demon.


It is a standard fighting dance where good triumphs over evil and featuring a spectacular smoke and firework entrance of the demon.


Our local kagura troupe are really good. They are all amateurs, but their performances are always tight and professional. The next dance was Kakko-Kirime. The first part involves Kakko, somewhat of a fool, who steals a sacred drum from a shrine and attempts, unsuccessfully  to activate it. I like the dance because it allows the dancer to incorporate a lot of his own moves and sequences. In the second half of the dancer the kami Kirime descends and teaches kakko the correct way.


I left then, past midnight. There was to be 6 more hours of dancing, but I was feeling out of sorts and I needed to be fresh for the final part of the matsuri, a series of ceremonies tomorrow morning followed by the carrying of the mikoshi.....

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Autumn Matsuri 2014 part 1


Last weekend was my villages annual Autumn Matsuri. The rice has been harvested, time to kick back and party. Though our village, like many others, has shifted away from using the traditional lunar calendar to set the date, it has also, like many others, shifted the date of the matsuri to fall on a saturday, so that many people have tomorrow off.


We arrived about 10:30, and things were in full swing because traditionally matsuris were all night affairs, and most villages in my area still continue with this tradition. There were fires to keep everyone outside the shrine warm, though it was still warm weather..... by 5 or 6 in the morning it will be cooler.


There was plenty of food and drank available. Made by local people, not the itinerant vendors who are a feature of city festivals, and the food was for sale, not free. I prefer the smaller villages up in the mountains that still provide free food and drink.


There were plenty of people milling around outside the shrine, but most were inside watching the kagura.....

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

In Search of Autumn Color


We went in search of some autumn color last week. We could have gone 1000 kilometers north to where it is already happening, but instead we decided to go up 1,000 meters to the top of Mount Hiba on the border between Shimane and Hiroshima.


Above 1100 meters the mountain is covered in forests of Beech, Buna in Japanese, but to get to it we had to pass through a sterile forest of cedar. Actually forest isn't the right word, because they are in reality tree farms. Quite depressing, with nothing living except the bureaucrats dream of  "resources"..


Once we emerged into the beech forest though we were greeted with sunlight and birdsong.


We passed by the tomb of Izanami, the goddess who created the islands of Japan with her brother/husband Izanagi.


There was a sprinkling of color on the mountainsides, but it will be a couple of weeks before it is fully turned on.


We descended through the wide open space that will become a ski slope once the snow comes, and here susuki was spread all over......

Monday, October 20, 2014

Tsurue Shinmeigu


Tsurue Shinmeigu is located on a small island in the north of Hagi, Yamaguchi. The channel seperating the island from the mainland is only a few meters wide so it doesnt feel like an island.


The shrine was founded around the end of the Heian Period, 5 centuries or so before Hagi became the Mori clans castle town. It is a branch of Ise Shrine.


Amaterasu is therefore the primary kami, but many others are enshrined within the grounds, including Takamusubi, and Kunitokotachi who were among the group of primary kami that created the universe and then disappeared from the mythology.


Another group of kami enshrined here are Omoikane, Futodama, Koyane, and Tajikarao. These kami all played a part in luring Amaterasu out of the Heavenly Rock Cave and also accompanied Ninigi on his descent to Earth. They are considered ancestors of some of the powerful clans of ritualists of the Yamato.


Also enshrined here and connected to Amaterasu and the Yamato is Ninigi and Tsukiyomi.
From the lineage of Susano there are two kami enshrined, Okuninushi, and Otoshi.
Finally there is an Inari shrine.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Tsukigata Shrine

While heading back to the main road after visiting Enko-ji I passed by this small shrine, Tsukigata Shrine.

Tsukigata means "moon-shaped", and I am guessing it refers to the rock outcropping behind the shrine.

According to the sign the main kami enshrined here, not surprisingly perhaps, is Tsukiyomi, the moon kami. There are surprisingly few shrines to Tsukiyomi, Surprising because Tsukiyomi, Susano, and Amaterasu were all created at the same time, but whereas Susano and Amaterasu feature in much of the later mythology, Tsukiyomi is barely mentioned again.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Fudo Myo of Shikoku part 5


Thye next segment of photos of Fudo Myo encountered when I walked the pilgrimage around Shikoku. This first one is at temple 36, Shoryuji


This one is at Daizenji, bangai temple number 5 located in Susaki, Kochi.


This small one is located at temple 37, Iwamotoji, in Kubokawa, also in Kochi.


The final 2 photos are at temple 38, Kongofukuji, located at Cape Ashizuri, in Kochi.


Monday, October 6, 2014

Enko-ji, Yasugi

I took a detour around some hills rather than continue on along the main road because I find main roads far less interesting or enjoyable, but also because when studying the maps before my walk I noticed a small temple with a pagoda.

There was no-one around at the temple and no signboards so I have been unable to find out anything about it other than that it belongs to the Soto sect of Zen.

The pagoda is an east asian development of the Nepalese stupa. In China its architecture adopted elements from towers and palaces and that is the form that became adopted in Japan where they are exclusively connected to Buddhism.

The one at Enko-ji is a Tahoto, a Japanese style believed to have originated in the Heian Period. Whereas almost all pagodas have an even number of storeys, the tahoto has only 2, the lower square and the upper round.

A distinctive feature of Japanese pagodas is how far out the eaves extend and overhang, something common to many traditional types of structure and believed to be so that the abundant rainfall of Japan can be kept away from the structures foundations.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Chugoku 33 Kannon Pilgrimage Day 1


After finishing my walk around Kyushu on the Kyushu Pilgrimage, this summer I started walking the Chugoku 33 Kannon Pilgrimage which will take me through Okayama, Hiroshima, Yamaguchi, Shimane, and Tottori. I think it will end up being over 1500 kilometers. I started at Hinase in the east of Okayama near to Shoraku-ji, the third temple on the pilgrimage.


At Shorakuji the Niomon was undergoing renovation, and so was able to observe one of the craftsmen working on repairs to the Nio.


Instead of heading directly west towards the next temple I took a detour and headed NW to visit the Shizutani School, a school founded in the early Edo Period for common people. Some of the architecture there is listed as a National Treasure.


From there I headed over the hills to reach a tributary of the Yoshii River which I followed down towards the south and the next temple.


Towards the end of the day I stopped in at the Bizen Sword Museum where swords are still made in the traditional way....

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Local Shrines in Arashima, Yasugi

After leaving Arashima Hachimangu I headed off around the hill towards a temple on the other side. Just a hundred meters from the Hachimangu I passed a small wayside shrine, a hokora. There are an untold number of such things everywhere in Japan, though they are usually not officially listed as shrines. There is no way of knowing the name of the kami enshrined unless a local person can be asked, and even then the kamis name may have been lost in time...

Another couple of minutes another shrine in the middle of the paddies. Obviously an agricultural shrine, and obviously well used as attested by the newish tori and the plentiful offerings, yet once again this is not marked on maps as an official shrine.

A little further around on the north side of the high ground another small shrine, though this time it is an "official" shrine with kami listed in the prefectures directory. It may be called Misaki Shrine, or Osaki Shrine, but there was no-one around to ask.

The three main kami enshrined here are Amaterasu, Susano, and Gonansanjo, a term I can find nothing about but which translates as " 5 male, 3 female" and suggests a collective identity for 8 kami. In the grounds are three small shrines to Okuninushi, Kotoshironushi, and Oyamagi.