Sendai Tanabata Matsuri, August 6-8, 2018

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sendai Tanabata

Sendai Tanabata festivals have been popular events since the time of the first lord of Sendai and hero Date Masamune (1567 – 1636). Two million visitors have been attending in recent years. The civic center and business areas are festooned with colorful streamers representing light coming from stars. To adjust for our modern solar calendar, Sendai observes Tanabata in August. This year, the dates were August 6, 7, and 8, 2018. Tanabata has become a romantic story of two Milky-Way-crossed lovers who meet once a year on this night. This adjunct to the original weaving theme probably came from China in the 8th century, and was further enlarged upon by Sendai merchants in the 17th cenury. So it is now a far cry from the simple nature-based Jomon festival.

Tanahata Maturi of Jomon Period

The Tanabata Hoshi Matsuri goes far back to Jomon times, when it was called Tanahata Hosi Maturi, the weaving loom star festival of the seventh night of the seventh lunar month. This is the night of the first quarter moon of our eighth month. On that night, Jomon people would look up at the Milky Way and thank ancestors for providing food and shelter and clothing. As part of the ceremony, they would perform ritual weaving on the tanahata loom. And in their gratitude and joy for all their blessings, they would dance all night. Weaving is a metaphor for the orderliness of Universe, where warp and woof threads are properly aligned and balanced. And where warp and woof represent male and female, without their meeting there would be no children.

This is one of the many seasonal maturi described in the the Hotuma Tutaye and Misakahumi ancient documents written in Wosite characters.

Modern Tanabata Decorations

These photos were taken on August 8, 2018 in Sendai. Note the kusudama balls below which streamers of washi paper float in the breeze. The traditional tanzaku strips of paper have wishes written on them and are hung on bamboo branches. There were many modern designs as well. And, as usual, there are decorations of thousands of origami cranes for peace.

Enjoy these cheerful works of art as you send your prayers of gratitude to your ancestors.

 

 

 

 

Photos by (c) C.N.

*

 

Advertisements

Hokuriku: Imizu Shrines

2018-05-19 10.04.40

Takaoka-Jyo Koen

Two Imizu Shrines

There are two shrines in Takaoka-shi, Toyama-ken, with the name Imizu. They are both ichinomiya first shrine of Etchuu.

Imizu Jinja 射水神社

2018-05-19 10.15.39

2018-05-19 10.21.51 Kukurihime-Shirayama

The first one we visited was on the high grounds of the former Takaoka-jyo castle. It is now a public park with woods and streams in the middle of town. The enshrined deity is Ninigi no mikoto, grandchild of Amaterasu (Amateru) of Ise Jingu. Also known as Futagami for his promotion of cultivating rice, harvesting of five grains, and increasing commerce. The shrine has an ancient and honorable origin. Other gosaishin are Ooyamakui no kami, Jinushi no kami, Kukurihime no kami, and Take-minakata no kami. Kukurihime no kami is none other than Shirayamahime, aunt of Amateru. Please note that the chigi is female-cut, and the only female kami enshrined here is Kukurihime Shirayamahime.

 

 

The photo below is from the pamphlet of Imizu Jinja. It shows the Takaoka-Jyo Koen in the foreground, former site of Takaoka Castle on a flat hill surrounded by the moat. The shrine is in the center, adjacent to the grassy lawn. In the background is Futagami mountain.

Futagamiyam & Takaoka-jyo

*

Futagami-Imizu Jinja 二上射水神社

2018-05-19 10.46.43 Futagami-Imizu Jinja

 

 

The smaller Futagami-Imizu shrine lies at the southern foot of the Futagami mountain. Futagami mountain is shintaisan, the sacred object of worship, and the deity is Futagami-Okami. The shrine faces due south, and the Futagami yama is behind it in the north.

2018-05-19 10.56.04

 

2018-05-19 11.09.27

 

 

 

 

 

 

2018-05-19 10.58.08 Map

This is an old village shrine with an unspecified pedigree going back at least to the year 717. This shrine claims a miraculous 築山 Tsukiyama, constructed mountain, although we are not sure what it is. According to an old document called the Hakusan-ki, this was the original ichinomiya of Etchu but they lacked power to keep this position and lost it to the Imizu Jinja at Takaoka Jyo. As to who is the Futagami, various theories say Ninigi, Takeuchi, Amanomurakumo, and Oonamuchi.

 

***

 

 

Hokuriku: Asahi and Yuuhi Shrines

2018-05-18 15.13.15 torii to bay

Toyama Bay from Asahi Jinja

Asahi & Yuuhi Jinja
These shrines are on the east coast of the Noto Peninsula in Toyama-ken. They are the morning and the evening shrines, for sunrise and sunset. The first enshrines Amaterasu/Amateru, and the other Toyouke Kami. We know from Woshite studies that Amateru was the grandson of Toyoke/Toyouke. They are respectively enshrined at Ise Jingu Naiku and Ise Jingu Geku. The Asahi and Yuuhi shrines are across highway from Toyama Bay. Both Asahi and Yuuhi shrine buildings were constructed in 1689.

Asahi  Jinja

Asahi’s first torii faces north. We measured the direction that the hall faces and it turned out to be 116 degrees SE. GPS readings were 36 degrees 55 min N, 137 deg 1 min E.
It is said that the kami of Ise Jingu, Amaterasu/Amateru was brought here before the Kamakura period (1185–1333). In olden days this shrine was revered as ubusu-gami, guardian of one’s birthplace. Both shrines are approached by a climb upwards and the prayer hall is on one’s right. The buildings are encased in glass (winters are extremely cold and snowy here) and so do not appear remarkable from the outside.
Just past the torii, we see the lanterns flanking the kaidan. So up we go. Along the way is this marvelous stack of stones.
2018-05-18 15.15.34
We reach the shrine hall and it looks very plain in its winter coat. But when we take a peek through the glass we see the lovely hinoki wood and a traditional capped hashira post.
Yuuhi Jinja

 

2018-05-18 15.39.45 Yuuhi Jinja
Yuuhi Jinja is 500 m north of Asahi. It is adjacent to a school which you can see in the background. Although this sando faces the bay in the east, the shrine building is facing a southwesterly direction, sitting on the rock of the low mountain.
2018-05-18 15.40.40
Yuuhi Jinja was formerly dedicated to Kunitokotachi, the earliest named kami. However, since Asahi corresponds to Ise Naiku inner shrine for Amateru, Yuuhi is considered the Geku outer shrine for Toyouke-kami.
2018-05-18 15.45.52
***

Hokuriku: Akiha Jinja in Itoigawa

IMG_2854

Akiha Jinja, Itoigawa

We reported in the previous post about the Akiha Jinja on the grounds of the Nou Hakusan. There is another Akiha Jinja in the town of Itoigawa, a block or so from the sea. We visited it early the next morning. It was very refreshing with tall trees and sea breezes!

Akiha Shrines 秋葉神社

Akiha-san is a sacred mountain, the shintaisan of Akiha Jinja Hongu in Hamamatsu-shi, Shizuoka-ken, headquarters of 400 shrines around the country. The enshrined deity is the kami of fire prevention. People read this name 秋葉 as akiha or akiba. It means autumn leaves. This is the Akiha Jinja plaque on the shrine at Nou Hakusan Jinja.

2018-05-16 18.06.30 Akiba Jinja

Screenshot 2018-07-13 23.07.56

The map shows three of the many Akiha shrines in the Itoigawa area. The shrine on the right is the one on the grounds of Nou Hakusan Jinja, in the previous post. The one in the middle is the one reported on here.

IMG_2863

 

***

 

Hokuriku: Nou Hakusan Jinja

2018-05-16 18.05.53 Nou Hakusan Jinja

Nou Hakusan Jinja

Benten Iwa 弁天岩

Benten iwa is an eye-catching small island immediately off-shore near the Nou Hakusan Jinja.  The two sites are geologically connected, having the same type of stone. Benten is short for Benzaiten, deity of water, originally the Hindu Saraswati. Made by the eruption of the submarine volcano of Fossa Magna 3 million years ago, Benten Iwa is one of the Geosites of Itoigawa Geopark. Itsukushima shrine to Benzaiten (Ichikishima-hime) as the guardian deity of the sea is on the island. The Itsukushima Shrine is considered a satellite shrine of Hakusan. The lighthouse continues to light the way for fishing boats coming back to the Nosei fishing port. There are large koinobori carp kites swimming in the strong wind over the Japan Sea. 2018-05-16 18.03.56 Benten Iwa

Benten Iwa

Nou Hakusan Jinja 能生白山神社

The Nou Hakusan Jinja is on the side of a small yama near Benten Iwa. In a sense, Benten Iwa is an extension of the mountain. Nou Hakusan is a Hakusan jinja in the Nou district. The honden was built in 1515, although it must have an older origin as a sacred place.  Nou Hakusan contains a number of relics of Hakusan Worship and is a bridge to the Nou Region’s ancient history. It is a Nationally Registered Important Cultural Property. The top photo shows the thatched roof of the prayer hall which resembles that of the Amatsu Jinja, shown earlier.

Kukurihime (Shirayamahime) was the earlier gosaishin. Shirayamahime is the guardian of Hakusan. During the Meiji period, her name was replaced by Nunokawa-hime’s. The current gosaishin are Nunakawahime 奴奈川姫命Isanagi no Mikoto  伊佐奈岐命 and  大己貴命 Oonamuchi no Mikoto. The kami trio of Shirayamahime (original gosaishin), Isanagi, and Oonamuchi are closely connected in the Hotsuma Tsutaye. Isanagi was the father of Amateru. When Amateru was born, Shirayamahime heard him speak his name, Uhirugi. That is how she received her Kukurihime name (she heard him). Amateru’s younger brother was Sosanowo, and Oonamuchi was Sosanowo’s son. 

Nou Hakusan Honden

While the dramatic building of the haiden faces the open grounds, the mysterious honden is in the woods behind the haiden. 

Akiha Jinja 秋葉神社

On the grounds of Nou Hakusan is a small shrine, the Akiha Jinja. The next post will show another Akiha Jinja in Itoigawa town.

Nou Hakusan Akiha Jinja

All photos by Okunomichi 2018.

***

 

 

Hokuriku: Amatsu Shrine

The Amatsu and Nou Hakusan shrines have such strikingly similar architectures, namely their thatched roofs, that we are reporting them sequentially. They are both in the city of Itoigawa (糸魚川), Niigata-ken (新潟県), and they both enshrine Nunakawa-hime, the heroine of this region, plus other kami of interest to those who study the Woshite documents. 

Amatsu Jinja 天津神社

2018-05-15 19.59.45 torii

Amatsu Jinja, ichinomiya of Echigo (Niigata), is a few minutes walk from Itoigawa station. When you arrive at the site, cross over a bridge and turn to your left to the temizuya, then resume your path. You are taken to a higher level so you are on a yama. You make a final left turn and suddenly the striking haiden prayer hall comes into view on your left. The hall has an immense thatched roof. There are three altars in the haiden: 奴奈川神社 (Nunokawa Jinja)、天津社 (Amatsu Sha)、住吉の扁額 (Sumiyoshi Hengaku).

2018-05-15 20.02.32 temizuya

The primary gosaishin of Amatsu Jinja is Amatsu-hikohikoho-ninigi-no-mikoto, or  Ninikine. Ninikine (Ninigi) is enshrined in several sacred sites in this Hokuriku area of Niigata and Toyama, far from his home area of Kansai. Ninikine is Wakeikazuchi, kami of Kamigamo Jinja in Kyoto. Also enshrined here are Amenokoyane no Ookami and Futodama no Mikoto; both are mentioned in Aya 20 of Hotsuma Tsutaye. Amenokoyane was Tsurugi no Tomi to Amateru. He was the author of Mikasafumi.

2018-05-15 20.16.24 AMATSU HONDEN

Amatsu Jinja Honden

The Amatsu honden is detached from the haiden and is in the back with other hokora. In the background of the haiden photo, you can see a row of hokora. The one that is visible in the photo is Nunakawa-hime Jinja, left of the honden. Nunakawa-hime is a popular heroine of Itoigawa and she is regarded as kami of jade found in the area. There is a dragon carved on the lintel, closeup photo.

2018-05-15 20.18.03 Nunokawa-hime closeup dragon

Nunakawahime Jinja

On the right of the honden is the 聖神社 Hijiri Jinja ( hijiri means sacred). 

.Hijiri Jinjajpg


Next to it is a compound of small stone hokora, and they have the great charm of age.

2018-05-15-20-14-23-hijiri-ishi-hokurajpg.jpg

 

***

 

Hokuriku Coast and Basho

Oyashirazu

Northern Alps drop into

the Sea of Japan.

Photo and verse by Okunomichi (c) 2018.

Hokuriku

Along the Sea of Japan, Hokuriku, which means Northlands region, is known for its heavy winter snows. Historically it includes the Koshi and Hokurikudo provinces and the Noto Peninsula. Current prefectures include Niigata, Toyama, Ishikawa, and Fukui. This series of posts is about a visit to Niigata and Toyama in May 2018. There are vistas of breathtaking beauty and power, and there are sacred shrines which grew organically out of this primordial region. There is a lot of unknown cultural history over the last ten thousand years, along with well-understood scientific history extending over 500 million years.

Oyashirazu

The cliffs at which the Northern Japanese Alps fall into the Sea of Japan were the product of terrestrial volcanic activity occurring about 100 million years ago. The ancient Hokuriku Road was wedged in a small space between these cliffs and the sea, making for a perilous journey, especially when the waves would surge. Large pockets and caves eroded into the wall where travelers would take refuge from the stormy seas still remain on the face of these cliffs.    

Oyashirazu    ko wa kono ura no    namimakura

koshiji no iso no    awa to kieyuku

Taira-no-Yorimori was a general of the once powerful Taira clan which was defeated by their rivals, the Minamoto clan, in the late 12th century. After their defeat, Yorimori fled to what is now Niigata prefecture. Following after him, his wife crossed Oyashirazu where she lost their child to the raging seas. In her sorrow she wrote this poem, which lends the cliffs their name.

Without his parent knowing,

my child, in this shore’s waves along the Koshiji road,

vanishes in the foam.

The above passages are from the Itoigawa Geopark’s extensive website. Itoigawa is home to the Itoigawa Geopark and the Fossa Magna Museum.  At the Oyashirazu lookout is this statue of a mother and two children, a memorial to all the children who were lost here. All photos are by Okunomichi © 2018.    

IMG_2866

Oku no Hosomichi

Matsuo Basho, traveled through the northern country in 1689 with his student Sora. After visiting Kasawaski, they stopped one night in Ichiburi near the Oyashirazu cliffs. At the inn, there were two ladies of leisure. Basho, perhaps mulling over the life and death pathos in the above Oyashirazu waka by Yorimori’s wife, wrote the haiku,

一家に遊女もねたり萩と月

hitotsuya ni    juujo mo netari    hagi to tsuki

In the same lodging

Play-girls too are sleeping —

Bush clover and moon.

(tr. by Christine Murasaki Millet, 1997)

This seemingly straight-forward haiku has overtones of contrasting themes: playgirls/monks, women/men, bush clover/moon, impermanence/permanence.

Poetic Monument of Matsuo Basho

At Choenji Temple, a stone monument commemorates Basho’s visit and haiku.

2018-05-18 10.03.18 Choenji

Choenji Temple 2018

 

***