Category Archives: Festivals

Sendai Tanabata Matsuri, August 6-8, 2018

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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.

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Heike Festival and Tsurutomi-hime of Miyazaki

Trurutomihime & Hietsuki

Tsurutomi-hime and hietsuki (pounding millet)

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The doll pictured above is Tsurutomi-hime, a Heike lady of Miyazaki, on the southern island of Kyushu. Recall the Heike-Genji war of the 12th century. The decisive sea battle of Dannoura took place in 1185, in the waters of the Shimonoseki Strait. This site lies between Shimonoseki of Yamaguchi-ken on the island of Honshu and Kitakyushu of Fukuoka-ken on the island of Kyushu.

The Heike lost and fled for their lives. Some Heike went to Iwate and Miyagi. Others went south to the remote reaches of Kyushu.

Tsurutomi-hime was the daughter of a leader of the Heike who found refuge in the deep mountains of Miyazaki. Their life was hard, they could grow no rice, and so they pounded hie which is Japanese millet.

A Genji warrior, Nasu Daihachiro, was sent to search for the refugee Heike. He found a group of Heike living a wretched life in a place called Shiiba. Instead of destroying them, he fell in love with Tsurutomi, and he lived happily with her in Shiiba. However after three years, Nasu was ordered to return to Honshu by Shogun Yoritomo. He left behind a daughter with Tsurutomi.

Today in Shiiba, there are descendants of the Genji warrior Nasu Daihachiro with the family name Nasu. A Heike festival is held there every November. This love story is recreated and sung in the Hietsuki-bushi. Shiiba is a tiny village of about four thousand residents, but people come from far and wide to participate in the festival and remember the love between a Genji man and a Heike woman over 800 years ago.

 

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