Category Archives: Jomon

Tanabata Matsuri — A Star Festival of Ancient Hinomoto

In this post, we discuss the popular Tanabata Festival in terms of its origin.  This star festival of the Weaver was traditionally held on the seventh night of the seventh lunar month. It is held in July or August in modern times.

While many think erroneously that the Tanabata Festival is of Continental origin, this post by Julian Way shows that it was known in the ancient land of Hinomoto Japan long before Continental contact:

     “Tanahata is a festival already ancient in Hotsuma times.”

Tanahata is a loom for ori weaving.  Tanahata matsuri is indigenous to the early people of Japan and is described in the Wosite documents Mikasafumi and Hotsuma Tsutae. This passage is from the Mikasafumi document.

From Namekoto no Aya in Mikasafumi,  as presented in Julian-Way:

afumi matsu     /     fume ni yawashite

kaze to nasu     /     yumi hari ni umu

iu to asa     /     woto tanahata no

hoshi matsuri     /     mochi ha miwoya to

iki tama ni     /     yena no hasuke no

me-wo a-e ha     /     a-ogi odori te

i o ukuru

Mikasafumi Namekoto no aya

Afumi  is the 7th month of the luni-solar calendar of the old days. Fume ni yawashite, the heat of summer is softening.

Yumi-hari is the first quarter of the moon, the seventh day, so the night sky is dark and stars can be seen. At the end of the seven days, a ceremony is held. Cotton and asa (hemp) are spun in the ceremony called woto tanahata no hoshi matsuri.  [Hoshi matsuri, star festival, where hoshi means star and matsuri is translated festival, although it meant an observance in the olden days.]  This is the star festival of Tanahata.

From time immemorial, weaving was sacred work that has been entrusted to women. The ceremony of tanahata, too, was considered sacred.

The special Wosite letter  wo  seen in the third line of the verse has a vertical line indicating the unseen connection to the stars. Stars are honored as ancestors. The other  wo  in  me-wo  refers to male and  me  to female.

Amemiwoya and Universe

The origin of Universe can be understood through Amemiwoya as the Great Origin. Amemiwoya is the Cosmic Parent. Amemiwoya is like the pole star, and Kunitokotachi and the eight Kunisatsuchi sons are like the stars rotating around the pole star.

つまり機織りはアメノノリ(アメの法則)を目に見える形にするという、尊いお仕事なのですね。

In short, weaving is precious work that makes Ame-no-nori the Law of the Cosmos visible in form. So, both the order of the world and governing were taught by likening to hataori weaving with a loom.

Tanahata is a festival already ancient in Hotsuma times.

Odori, dance

なんと、(祖先を)仰ぎ、 踊って アメ のエネルギーを受ける・・・元気になる。

Our ancestors looked up, danced, and received the energy of Universe and  –good health.

縄文のころからの私達の伝統であったのです。

It was our tradition from Jomon times.

Long ago, when thinking of the beginning of the world and the beginning of people while looking up at the beautiful stars in the night sky, our hearts communed with our precious ancestors and started this ceremony dedicated to stars.

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Image above: Woodblock print, Tanabata Matsuri in Edo by Hiroshige

Photo: Sky and Telescope

milky-way-great-rift_480x2741

Note added:  2022.06.16.  This post was prepared in 2017.06.08 and not published. Since Tanabata season is about to begin, we are publishing this post for all to learn about the origin of Tanabata and the Obon Odori in Jomon/Wosite times. For more about Wosite, please see our other site, WoshiteWorld.

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Katakamuna, Ryutai, and Wosite Scripts

Introduction

Wosite is not the only script of ancient indigenous Japan. There were many others. Of all these scripts, Wosite is one of the oldest and the most “scientific.” By that, we mean that Wosite is systematic and logical, and its basis is a deep understanding of the principles of the universe and the physical laws by which it operates. This depth of concept that is encoded in the Wosite script is evidence of abstract thinking of early people. This may come as a surprise to many moderns who have assumed that we have only recently come to this level of thought and consciousness.

Popular Kamiyomoji Culture in Japan

There is currently a rather widespread interest in Japan of looking toward the past, to the Jōmon period, from the end of the last Ice Age to the turn of the Common Era.

This is true of anime and manga which depict mythological characters in fantasy. Where are the artists getting their inspiration from? There is also a “healing” and a “powerspot” boom for those seeking an improvement in their lives. Some of the “healing” is said to come from writing Kamiyomoji “divine characters” much as Buddhists meditate by copying sutras over and over. Kamiyomoji are scripts of indigenous Japan, long before Chinese writing was introduced. We have observed that some of those interests are connected with what we know about the Wosite civilization and culture. We students of Wosite can gain fuller understanding by taking a look at these peripheral subjects.

Katakamuna, Ryutai, and Wosite Scripts

Katakamuna verse

Some of the readers of our Okunomichi and WorshiteWorld blogs came to our sites to read about Katakamuna, so we know that people are searching on that keyword. Katakamuna is one of the ancient scripts and we have written on that subject, although there is a very limited amount of primary source material. Ryutai is another script which we will present in this article.

Ages of these scripts are hard to pinpoint. Followers of Ryutai claim that it is one of the oldest scripts at 5,600 years of age, which we will shortly explain. Katakamuna is difficult to date, but it is also very old. Wosite researchers such as Beace state that Wosite existed 6,000 to 8,000 years ago, 4,000 to 6,000 BCE. This would make Wosite older than Ryutai. And the Futomani of Ryutai was formed following the Hutomani of Wosite as many of the Ryutai blogs indicate.

Ryutai Script

Ryutai script is called in modern Japanese ryutaimoji. Written in kanji (modern Chinese letters) as 龍体文字, Ryutaimoji may be translated as “dragon characters.” The word 龍 ryu meaning dragon has replaced the native Japanese word for dragon, たつ tatsu. Followers believe that each character has a Kototama meaning with its own power for healing, and they become practitioners by repeatedly writing out Ryutai characters. 

Ryutai Futomani

Do you recognize the familiar layout of the mandalas shown at the top? We know the one on the left as the Motoake chart of the cosmic origin of the universe as described in the Wosite document, the Hutomani which was compiled by Amateru Amakami. The version of the Motoake chart with inscribed Ryutai characters is called Futomani. The Ryutai Futomani chart is formed from the Wosite Motoake by replacing the 48 Wosite characters by their corresponding Ryutai letters. 

The central circle may seem unfamiliar, but it is simply a 90-degree rotation of the Amoto circle of Amemiwoya. The three Ryutai letters are the three Wosite characters for A-U-Wa. “A-U-Wa” in Wosite means the Birth (U) of Cosmos (A) and Earth (Wa), namely the origin of the universe. 

Kami of the “Age of Gods”

It is the dating of the mythological “Age of Gods” of the governmentally-sanctioned Kojiki, produced in 712 CE, that gives rise to Ryutai dating. In other words, the names of the Kami indicate offer a clue as to the events of their period. For example, if we know when a certain Kami lived, then associated events can be approximately dated and a sort of history established. This seems to be the case with the Ryutai.

Glossary for this Western-conventional translation (not our translation).  English-language translations of the old documents of the historical period of Japan, such as the Kojiki, were produced by Westerners from a Christian culture. They used words such as “god” and “heaven” which were foreign concepts to native Japanese. Nevertheless, we are stuck with these non-politically-correct terms. 

“神, Kami” is translated as “god.” (However, in indigenous Japan, a Kami is a Kami, not a god.)

“天, Ama, Ame” is translated as “Heaven.” (In indigenous worldview, Ama is Space or Cosmos, as different from Earth.)

Note that Wosite researcher Beace has defined Kami as she understood the ancient people meant. Please see our interpretations of her posts. Since Beace was the teacher of Okunomichi, the writer of these WoshiteWorld blogs, the posts on this site provide our understanding of Kami and Ama. They can be found by use of the Search box.

“別天津神, Kotoamatsukami” refers to the first group of “gods” to appear after creation, as described in the Kojiki.

The Kotoamatsukami appeared in this order:

 Amenominakanushi

 Takamimusubi

 Kamimusubi

 Umashiashikabihikoji

 Amenotokotachi

Dating Ryutai

The two steps in the reasoning of the Ryutai age come from (1) Ryutai appeared in the time of Umashiashikabihikoji, and (2) Umashiashikabihikoji lived around 5,600 years ago. Therefore, it is said that Ryutai script is 5,600 years old.

Applications to Modern Generation

As previously mentioned, Ryutai is being touted as a healing practice. Wosite, on the other hand, is not only a healing practice, it offers the modern generation a sustainable worldview. Wosite offers us the wisdom of our ancient ancestors who knew well the principles of the Universe. Wosite wisdom is a set of guidelines for people to live in harmony with each other, with Nature, and with Universe. We can follow these guiding principles to make a world of higher consciousness, well-being, and happiness for our children and the future.

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Paleolithic and Jomon Obsidian Production

Obsidian exhibit at Togariishi Museum of Jomon Archaeology.

Upper Paleolithic Blade Technology

This is a continuation of our previous post on Jomon obsidian. The first blade technology emerged in the Upper Paleolithic, around 36,000 years ago. The Upper Paleolithic was from around 38,000 to 16,000 years ago; the Jomon period was from around 16,000 to 2,800 years ago.

“The Japanese Paleolithic is unique in that it incorporates one of the earliest known sets of ground stone and polished stone tools in the world, although older ground stone tools have been discovered in Australia. The tools, which have been dated to around 30,000 BC, are a technology associated in the rest of the world with the beginning of the Neolithic around 10,000 BC. It is not known why such tools were created so early in Japan.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_Paleolithic

“Prehistoric Human Activities Around Obsidian Sources in Central Japan”

This journal publication by Kazutaka Shimada contains a great deal of information about prehistoric obsidian sources in Central Japan. His Figure 2 is a detailed map of obsidian mining sites in the Central Highlands. Many Jomon sites have been found near obsidian mines in the mountains of the Central Highlands at altitudes between 1,200 to 2,000 m. We may think that the Jomon were hunter-gatherers, but they lived a semi-sedentary existence with lithic technology higher than we may have imagined.

Obsidian is distributed along volcanic zones, and sources of obsidian in the Japanese archipelago are therefore limited. Around 200 obsidian sources have been identified in Japan, the three main regions being northeastern Hokkaido island, central Japan of Honshu island, and northern Kyushu island.

During the Upper Paleolithic, the technique for the production of obsidian blades were done in lithic workshops. Early on, obsidian was gathered from the surface, and by the Jomon period, the people mined underground deposits by digging pits. The Central Highlands served as a “hub” of the Jomon residential areas, and its obsidian was widely distributed.

“The Jomon exchange networks reflect both the establishment of the local group(s) who exclusively managed the source areas and controlled obsidian circulation, and the emergence of highly sophisticated social relations among the regional Jomon societies of central Japan.”

This thoroughly documented paper offers a window into the lifestyle of the Jomon. We recommend you study it if you have any interest in the obsidian industry of Jomon Japan.

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Obsidian in the Central Highlands

Obsidian pendant from Togariishi Museum in Nagano.

Jomon Obsidian

When we were in Nagano last year, we visited the Togariishi Jomon Archaeological Museum in the city of Chino. There I bought a black obsidian pendant. Ever since then, I have been curious to learn more about obsidian. Why was the museum selling obsidian pendants? What has obsidian to do with the Jomon of prehistoric Japan? We answer these questions in a two-part post.

What is Obsidian?

Obsidian is a volcanic glass, predominantly glossy black, that forms as igneous rock through the rapid cooling of magma. It has been used for cutting tools with sharp edges such as arrowheads and knives, and also as jewelry. Because it is shiny, it is like a mirror and is thought to expose hidden truths. Allowing negativities to be cleansed, obsidian is known for physical, emotional, and spiritual healing.

Obsidian in Japan

Obsidian has a long history in Japan and is found in many places throughout the archipelago. It is called kokuyo-seki (黒曜石; koku is black and seki is stone). Obsidian has been mined from many sites in the Central Highlands since Jomon times. What are the Central Highlands? They cover the prefectures of Nagano, Yamanashi, and Gifu.

“It is believed that there are more than 100 obsidian mining sites in the Japanese islands, extending from Hokkaido in the north to Kyushu in the south. Among these, much of the obsidian from sites in Nagano Prefecture is of high quality, features sharp fracture intersections, and is easy to work and shape. For this reason, Nagano obsidian was the preferred material for making arrowheads, knives, and other stone tools and was widely used by the people of that period….Over a period of several tens of thousands of years from the Paleolithic to the Yayoi period, Nagano obsidian—obsidian only produced in Nagano Prefecture—was distributed in large quantities across a wide area.” https://jomon.co/en/story/

“30,000 years ago, obsidian was transported as raw stone, but 20,000 years ago, stone tools were made at the place of origin and transported to various places. In archeological sites such as Takayama and Mangakukura in Nagawa-cho, Nagano Prefecture, materials and fragments that are traces of stoneware processing have been found. ” https://www.asahi.com/articles/ASL9H46V9L9HUOOB003.html

Obsidian in Shinshu

Shinano Province or Shinshū (信州) is the traditional name for Nagano Prefecture. Located in central Honshu—the primary island of Japan—Shinshu flourished in ancient times as a cultural crossroads between Eastern and Western Japan. With the easy access from Tokyo and the fame the 1998 Winter Olympics brought to Nagano, Shinshu is today a popular tourist draw for people from both within and outside Japan. Bordered on the west by the Japanese Alps, a range of 3,000-meter class mountains, Shinshu provides excellent opportunities for such activities as skiing at Hakuba and hiking in Kamikochi (the Upper Highlands) as well as beautiful mountain views and other natural scenery.  https://www.jreast.co.jp/e/shinshu/

“A historic ruins from the mid-Jomon period, located on the plateau on the west foot of Mt. Yatsugatake at an elevation of 1,070 meters. An archeological survey was carried out in 1930 by a local researcher, Fusakazu Miyasaka, which resulted in the excavation of numerous pit dwellings and hearth remnants, along with earthenware and stoneware revealing mid-Jomon culture and settlements that flourished in the Chubu Highlands. It was designated as a National Historic Site in 1942, and as the first Special Historic Site from the Jomon period in 1952. Moreover, north of the Togariishi Ruins and across a shallow valley with flowing natural spring water, the Yosukeone Historic Ruins were also added to the designation in 1993.” https://www.city.chino.lg.jp/site/togariishi/

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Togakushi and Togakushi Jinja

Opening of the heavenly door by Tajiikarao as Ame-no-Uzume dances and myriad of kami welcome the emerging Amateru

Togakushi

Togakushi Village and the nearby Togakushi Shrine are situated in the north of Nagano within the Joshinetsu National Park, a 45-min drive from Nagano City. This volcanic area is at an altitude of 1,200m at the foot of the two volcanoes, Mt Togakushi 戸隠山 (1,904m) and Mt Iizuna 飯縄山 (1,917m).

Deeply steeped in mystery, Togakushi is part of the Ama-no-iwato Hirake myth, the opening of the Heavenly Cave Door. Ama-no-Uzume danced and Tatikarawo (Tajikarao) opened the Amanoiwato, and the door flew to Shinano/Nagano. Togakushi means hidden door.

Togakushi Jinja 戸隠神社 N 36.76, E 138.07, Alt 1289m 

Togakushi Jinja consists of five shrines at three shrine locations: the lower, middle, and upper shrine areas. The lower area has shrines 宝光社 Hōkō-sha  (Treasure of Light) and 火之御子社 Hino-miko-sha. The middle site has the 中社 Chū-sha (Middle Shrine). The upper area consists of the 奥社 Oku-sha (Deep Sanctuary) and 九頭龍社 Kuzuryu-sha.

Togakushi Jinja may have originated at Achi Jinja in southern Nagano. Togakushi’s Chū-sha and Achi Jinja both enshrine Omoikane.

Oku-sha 奥社

First torii to Oku-sha; map showing route from first torii through path of cedars up to Oku-sha; arrival at Zuishinmon gate before the upwards climb

Oku-sha, the oldest of the five, is the sanctuary of the shrine high up in the mountains. The Oku-sha enshrines Amateru and Tatikarawo (Tajikarao). The map shows the long path from the first torii to the Oku-sha. We went as far as the Zuishinmon Gate. The rest of the way would be all uphill. This site is considered a power spot and is immensely popular with those visiting the shrine as well as the walking-impaired who could enjoy the smooth walkways through nature.

Genbu.net has this to say about Oku-sha. The original kami of this sha were nine dragon-kami who dwell in rock caves. Dragons are associated with water and will relieve tooth decay problems if one prays to them. The legend of Tajikarao was introduced later.

Zuishinmon Gate of Togakushi Oku-Sha

Chū-sha 中社 Center Shrine

Chū-sha
Haiden of Chū-sha
Sazare-taki

Chū-sha means middle or center shrine. It is physically located in the center of the array of five Togakushi shrines. The second Togakushi sha (after Oku sha) to be establlished was Hōkō-sha, and Chū-sha was created midway between the two. Chū-sha enshrines the kami Omoikane. It is commonly said that Omoikane is “the kami who organized the kagura dance performance in front of the cave”. We have yet to find this reference in the Hotuma Tutaye Wosite document. However, the document tells us that Omoikane is the father of Tatikarawo who opened the cave door. Also known as Achihiko in Wosite history, Omoikane is a great-grandson of Toyoke Takamimusubi and he held the post of Hiyomi-no-miya, Master of the Solar Calendar, for Amateru. Omoikane is generally considered to be a kami of wisdom. The full story of Omoikane can be found in the Wosite documents.

Sacred tree

Hinomiko Sha 火之御子社, 日之御子社

Hinomiko Sha enshrines Ame-no-Uzume, the female kami whose dancing lured Amateru out of the cave. Also enshrined are Takamimusubi, Oshihomimi (son of Amateru), and his daughter Takuhatachichihime. In Wosite history, the best-known Takamimusubi is the grandfather of Amateru. It is said that the name Hinomiko refers to a kami of fire (hi), which seems rather out of place here. If the word Hinomiko were written with the character for sun (hi) instead of fire, 日之御子社, Hinomiko would mean the son of the kami of the sun, namely Amateru. This would make more sense.

Genbu.net has a comment on the name and the enshrined kami. Based on Oku-sha’s kami Tajikarao and Chu-sha’s Omoikane, Genbu says that Hinomiko sha’s kami Ame-no-Uzume is in error and she should have been named elsewhere.

Hōkō-sha and Kuzuryu-sha

We were unable to visit two of the five Togakushi sha. Hōkō-sha enshrines Ama-no-Uwaharu (another son of Omoikane) and a guard in the tenson korin myth. Kuzuryu Jinja Nine Dragon Shrine enshrines a water kami known as Kuzuryuu no Ookami from ancient times, or Benzaiten from later Buddhist times. In Japanese thought, dragons are associated with water, as is Benzaiten. We missed these two because we were unable to park the car at the Hōkō-sha, and the other is located at the top near Oku-Sha.

Kuzuryusha sits next to Okusha, and has been the central deity for the Togakushi worship as the local deity since the old time. As the deity who presides over the water, it is worshiped by the people engaged in agriculture in the wide area along Torii, Kusu and Susobana rivers, as well as the Echigo region, which is connected through the underground water.
Though the date of foundation is unknown, it was enshrined as the local deity before the enshrinement of Ame-no-tajikarao-no-mikoto. It is worshiped for its divine virtue of realization of wishes. It is also worshiped as the god of [dental] caries as well as of matchmaking.

From http://en.nagano-cvb.or.jp/modules/sightseeing/page/376
Togakushi Jinja plaque at Chū-sha

The comment about the original deity of Togakushi being a dragon-water being can lead one to regard the Togakushi shrines as being ancient sacred places honoring kami of nature such as water and fire. Later, historical figures were added, and even later some Buddhist elements were incorporated. There is still much that remains a mystery about Togakushi.

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Suwa Taisha Harumiya and Akimiya

Harumiya kagura-den in front of heihaiden

Harumiya and Akimiya, Lower Suwa Shrines

The Lower Shrines are on the north side of Lake Suwa. They are the Harumiya and the Akimiya, whose enshrined kami is said to be Yasakatome, spouse of Takeminakata.

Harumiya, Spring Shrine

Harumiya means Spring Shrine. It is in a shady location, and it has a sugi tree as goshintai. It has a haiden prayer hall but no honden containing a sacred object. The lack of a honden and having a sacred sugi tree indicate that this is an exceedingly old shrine, pre-Shinto, related to nature reverence. Having learned that this is where Yasakatome resides in the spring, we could feel her serene presence. It is said that she moves to Akimiya in the autumn. In the previous post we had learned that Takeminakata comes to visit her in wintertime.

Heihaiden prayer hall

A guide to Harumiya precinct can be found here.

Akimiya, Autumn Shrine

Temizuya with hot spring water

Akimiya means Autumn Shrine. It has the ichii tree as goshintai; there is no honden containing any sacred object. Akimiya has an exceptionally hot water temizuya for hand washing. Beware!

Heihaiden of Akimiya

When we approached the heihaiden prayer hall, the priest was performing a ritual (photo left below). After that, just before 5 o’clock, the priest conducted an additional ritual. There was chanting and the heavy beat of the taiko drum. We realized that this was a closing ceremony when we turned around to visit the shrine office to buy an amulet and found the windows being closed. We felt it was a privilege to be at the shrine at that dusky time of day. Somehow the kami seemed to be nearer…

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Suwa Taisha Honmiya and Maemiya

Suwa Region

The Suwa region surrounding Lake Suwa lies at the foot of the Yatsugatake mountains in Nagano. It is steeped in mystery and legend from prehistoric times. The presence of kami and nature spirits can still be felt today. Suwa is dominated by the presence of Suwa Taisha, the grand shrine of Suwa, noted for its exciting Onbashira festival. The four shrine locations of Suwa Taisha each have four of these giant pillars.

Wosite and Lake Suwa

We wanted to visit Suwa because it connects with our Wosite research of Jomon Japan through the son and grandsons of Sosanowo (Susanoo), brother of Amateru. After Sosanowo, his son Onamuchi governed the land of Izumo. Although his people lived well, Onamuchi ignored the unification sought by Amateru in the central land. Onamuchi, popularly called Omononushi and Okuninushi, had two sons of note in this story. Kusuhiko received the title Kotoshironushi and he became the second Omononushi.

When Kusuhiko advised his father Onamuchi to give up Izumo to unify with Amateru, Onamuchi didn’t comply right away. Kusuhiko’s brother Takeminakata resisted on their father’s behalf, and was chased by the central force led by Takemikazuchi from Izumo to the umi (lake) of Shinano. There, Takeminakata surrendered, saying Suwa! Alas! Thus this umi is known as Suwako, Lake Suwa; it is the largest lake in Nagano prefecture.

Suwa Taisha 諏訪大社

Suwa Taisha is ichinomiya first shrine of Shinano. Gosaishin enshrined kami are: Takeminakata, his wife Yasakatome, and Yaekotoshironushi (Kusuhiko, Takeminakata’s brother).

Wikipedia has something curious to say about Suwa Taisha: “Although these [Takeminaka and Yasakatome] are the official identities of the shrine’s gods, most of its rituals are actually not so much concerned with their identities but with their character as Mishaguji , local agricultural and fertility deities. The name ‘Takeminakata’ in fact does not appear in historical records of the Upper Shrine’s religious rites; rather, the focus of worship in these rituals are often identified as the Mishaguji.”

And about Mishaguji:  “Believed to be spirits that inhabit natural objects like trees or rocks that could also be called upon to possess  humans or objects during religious rituals, Mishaguji are also thought to be god(s) of boundaries and protector(s) of communities. Worship of the Mishaguji occupied a central place in the religious beliefs of the Suwa region in Nagano prior to the arrival of the Yamato state iin the area. “

There are four Suwa sha shrines, two north of the lake, two south. These are ancient shrines; i.e., they were sacred places to the ancient people long before Shinto shrines were built. Honmiya has Mt Moriya itself as its goshintai sacred object. The Maemiya or earlier shrine has a honden containing a sacred object within. These two sha on the south side of Suwako are called the Upper Shrines. The kami is Takeminakata.

The other two sha are called the Lower Shrine; they are on the north side of Lake Suwa. Their enshrined kami is Yasakatome, spouse of Takeminakata. The Harumiya Spring Shrine has a sugi tree as goshintai,  and Akimiya Autumn Shrine has the ichii tree; they indicate prehistoric nature reverence.

Suwa Taisha Honmiya

The Honmiya is the main shrine with large grounds and is immensely popular. It is comprised of a number of halls.

Suwa Taisha Maemiya 前宮

Maemiya means former shrine, and it must be the first of the Suwa shrines. It is much more modest and charming. On a hillside, the Maemiya felt cool and refreshing.

There is a lovely brook at the base of this shrine where people can fill up their plastic bottles with cold, pure mountain water.

Our report on Suwa Taisha continues in the next post on Harumiya and Akimiya.

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Togariishi Jomon Museum

Togariishi Jomon Museum

The Togariishi Museum of Jōmon Archaeology is a municipal museum located in the city of Chino, Nagano prefecture, in the foothills of Yatsugatake mountains (2,899 m) on the east on the border with Yamanashi prefecture. The Yatsugatake Mountains 八ヶ岳連峰 are a volcanic mountain range. Thousands of Jomon people lived in these highland areas around 5,000 years ago. In this area of rich deposits, they mined obsidian for making sharp tools, and they traded and prospered. 

This museum specializes in artifacts of the Jōmon period found at nearby sites. Amongst its holdings are the famed Jomon Venus (middle Jomon ca. 3,000–2,000 BCE) and the Masked Goddess (late Jomon 2,000 BCE) doki (clay) figures. There is a multitude of vases and other artifacts, as well as a mineral collection. It is adjacent to the Togariishi (togari-ishi, pointed rock) archaeological site where you can see reconstructed Jomon houses. While it seems out of place in the woods, it is an impressive modern museum. It is not far from Suwa Taisha’s Maemiya.

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SHINANO: Where Earth and Spirit Meet

Shinano

2019 May found us on a field trip to the Kanayama Megaliths in Hida (Gifu Prefecture). After, we visited the adjacent former province of Shinano, now known as Nagano Prefecture. We had several reasons for our visit. We wanted to see the other, Eastern, side of the Hida mountains which border Hida and Shinano, and which form the Northern Japanese Alps. There is a map of provinces in time of Ieyasu. The map above is cropped from the insert and it shows Hida and Shinano separated by the Hida mountain range. We are interested in the watershed river systems and the cool lakes. We wanted to pray at Shinano’s ancient shrines, which were sacred places before they formally became shrine sites. And we had heard about the museum which houses the Jomon Venus and the Masked Goddess clay figures unearthed from the Jomon Period thousands of years ago. Although the two prefectures are adjacent on a map, they are not easily crossed from one to the other because of the mountains which separate them. For example, it takes five hours to travel from Hida Kanayama to Nagano City by limited-express train via Nagoya (348 km), compared with only 95 min from Tokyo (222 km) via Shinkansen. Below is the route from Nagano station to Kyoto station.

Nagano – Kyoto route by Google Maps

Japanese Alps

The Japanese Alps run through the center of the main Japanese island of Honshu. They are comprised of the mountain rainges:

Northern Alps: the Hida Mountains (飛騨山脈 Hida Sanmyaku), containing such important mountains as Ontake ( 3,067 m), Norikuradake (3,026 m), and Tateyama (3,015 m).

Central Alps: the Kiso Mountains (木曽山脈 Kiso Sanmyaku), including Mt Ena (2,191 m).

Southern Alps: the Akaishi Mountains (赤石山脈 Akaishi Sanmyaku).

Map centered on Lake Suwa in Nagano prefecture, shows the mountain ranges in shades of red. From Japan Atlas, A Bilingual Guide, Kodansha International, pp 20-21. Hida range NW of Suwa, Akaishi SE, and Kiso range between.

View of Mt Ontake from N36.03, E 138.05, Alt 815 m

We wanted to see Mt Ontake 御嶽山, Ontake-san, which straddles Gifu and Nagano prefectures. The elevation of this mountain is 3,067 m, the second highest volcano after Mt. Fuji. Indeed, this mountain is partly the reason why the prefectures are divided this way along the mountain ridges. The peak of Ontake could be seen from the lookout at a michinoeki, a good place to stop for lunch of the local kamameshi steamed mixed rice (1080 yen).

Mt Ontake, 3,067 m

Kiso River System 木曽川流域

The Kiso River (木曽川, Kisogawa) is 229 km long, flowing through 長野県 Nagano, 岐阜県 Gifu, 愛知県 Aichi, and 三重県 Mie prefectures into Ise Bay. The source of its waters is Mt Hachimori (2,191 m) in Nagano prefecture. It is the main river of the Kiso Three Rivers together with the Ibi-gawa and Nagara-gawa. The source of the Ibi is Mt Kanmuri in Gifu, and that of the Nagara is Gujo, also in Gifu. In our post at Yamanomiya, we showed the whirlpool in the Kiso-gawa at Kawakami Jinja in Yaotsu town in Minokamo. The Kiso River basin (including Shiga prefecture) is 9,1000 square km, the fifth largest in Japan.

Kiso River, viewed facing west at Michinoeki
Kiso River System. The Kiso River (blue line) flows through Nagano (upper right), Gifu (yellow), Aichi (lower right) and Mie (lower left) before pouring into Ise Bay.

Kisokoma Highlands  N 36.85, E 137.76, Alt 1036 m

Mt Komagatake ( 2,956m)

We started our visit at the Kisofukushima station in the southern part of Nagano. Kisofukushima is well-known through Hiroshige’s woodblock print, Fukushima-juku, in the series Sixty-nine Stations of Kiso Road, the Kisoji. The seventeenth century daimyo took this scenic road to Edo, the capital.

We learned that this region is called Shinshuu, in the highlands of Kisokoma . The name 木曽駒高原 Kisokoma Kougen is a composite of 木曽 for Kiso River, 駒 for Komagatake Mountain, and kougen 高原mountain pass. In case you’re wondering about the word 駒 koma which means small horse, the Kiso uma are famous. The tall mountains were still capped with snow in late May. Yet here at the Morino Hotel on the slopes at 1,000 m altitude it was a warm spring day with many wildflowers and green all around. It was hard to believe we were less than a half hour away from the station. Dinner was a gourmet treat of trout, tempura, chawan mushi, artisan tofu, misoshiru, and the tender Shinshuu gyu beef with hoba miso on a tabletop grill. We added a clear Kisoji sake. Dessert was a light raspberry-mango cream cheese. We would head out the following morning. We next present a series of reports on the places we visited.

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Tanabata — A Jomon Festival

mikasafumi-namekoto-no-ayaNamekoto no Aya by Yasutoshi Waniko, courtesy Japan Translation Center

Tanahata (Tanabata)

Tanahata is a matsuri of the Jomon people, as told by the Wosite documents of Jomon Japan. The Law of Universe is explained in terms of a weaving metaphor. Tanahata is a weaving loom. When weaving, one uses a shuttle to connect horizontal threads with vertical threads. In a similar manner, Ame Cosmos interacts with Tuti Earth, just as wo Male with me Female. The result is Hito, a human being, like you and me. Tanahata connects us with time and space — and with each other. Tanahata is an event that fosters family, global and cosmic relationships. 

Tanahata Maturi, Hosi Maturi

In the 7th month of the year, the heat of summer is softening and there is even a breeze tonight. It is the seventh day, the first quarter of the moon, so that the night sky is dark and stars twinkle. The Amanogawa Milky Way is an awesome spectacle. A ceremony is held, the Woto Tanahata no Hosi Maturi. Cotton and hemp are woven, and lotus rice is offered to Amemiwoya, the Cosmic Parent.    [Namekoto no Aya, see below.]

qraud-kochi.jp:activity:weaving:o

Shuttle of a loom

Weaving.  The Tanahata ceremony was sacred. Weaving was sacred work entrusted to women, for weaving makes the Way of Universe visible in form. The weaving itself represents the unity of Universe and Earth, of man and woman, and their intersection is a person like you and me. This is explained in the Kituyoji teaching recorded in the Wosite document called the Mikasahumi.

Stars. Stars are honored as ancestors. Breath of spirit, breath of life, come from Ame Miwoya. Miwoya is like the pole star, and ancestors are like the stars that rotate around it. Ancestors, too, are a source of life to each one of us. We look up at stars and feel gratitude for the life with which we are blessed. Our Jomon ancestors felt moved at the beautiful sight in the night sky. Their souls connected with ancestors and they started this tradition. Hearts filled with joy and gratitude, they danced. 

Time and Space.  Another effect of ori weaving of Tanahata is connecting toki-tokoro, time and space. The vertical threads represent time, the horizontal threads space. Tanahata is an observance of time and space. The Tanahata festival was originated by wise ancestors of Wosite Jomon times. Tanahata connects us with time and space, with Universe and Earth, with each other. 

Modern Tanabata Festival

“Tanahata is a festival already ancient in Jomon times.”

http-::yokosojapan.co.jp:tanabata-time:

The Tanahata (Tanabata) star festival of the Weaver was traditionally held on the seventh night of the seventh lunar month. The lunar year did not begin on our January first, so the seventh month is not July but likely to be in our August. Tanabata Matsuri is held in July or August in modern times, and it has become a story of two lovers meeting once a year at the Milky Way. While many think erroneously that the Tanabata Festival is of Continental origin, it was celebrated by Jomonese long before Continental contact. It was not about love relationship, but rather about relationship of humans with others, with ancestors, and with Universe. When you participate in the Tanabata Festival, remember how it originated in Jomon Japan and remember your connections with the stars. 

Obon Odori

The dancing of the Jomon Tanahata has spun off into the Bon Odori, the folk dancing a week later when people in their later Buddhist faith welcomed the spirits of deceased ancestors.

Namekoto no Aya

The Wosite passage at the top of this page is from the Jomon-period Mikasafumi document, Namekoto no Aya. It mentions Tanahata in the third line below. A glossary is given in an appendix.

ahumi matu     /     hume ni yawasite

kaze to nasu     /     yumi hari ni umu

iu to asa     /     woto tanahata no

hosi maturi     /     moti ha miwoya to

iki tama ni     /     yena no hasuke no

me-wo a-e ha     /     a-ogi odori te

i o ukuru

Discussion

In the annals of the Wosite documents of Jomon Japan, annual festivals of the first, third, fifth, seventh, and ninth lunar months are mentioned as follows:

1/1     Hatsuhi, New Year’s Day

3/3     Momo no Sekku Peach Festival of Girls Day (Hinamatsuri)

5/5      Aoi Matsuri, Hollyhock Festival of Kyoto

7/7     Tanahata Matsuri, Star Festival

9/9     Kiku-kuri Matsuri, Chrysanthemum-Chestnut Festival

These are all Jomon festivals, kept alive to today.

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Milky Way, by Brunier

Jomonese were keen observers of the skies, day and night. When the moon was in its first quarter on the seventh night of the seventh lunar month, they would have seen the summer Milky Way, which they called Amanogawa, the Cosmic River. They would remember the Kituyoji teaching and contemplate toki-tokoro time-space. They could imagine weaving amongst the stars, weaving time and space. And so they called this observance Tanahata Maturi, Hosi Maturi, and we would say Tanabata Festival, Star Festival.

Appendix – Glossary

ahumi, 7th lunar month

hume ni yawasite, the heat is softening

kaze, breeze

yumihari, first quarter of the moon

iu, cotton;  asa, hemp

hosi, star

maturi, observance

Miwoya, Cosmic Parent

hasuke, food offering

odori, dance

sc155955

Weaving on a Loom, by Kitagawa Utamaro 1798

 

Update 2018.09.12.  Matocayamato, another Wosite blogsite, has published a similar post, entitled, Origin of Tanahata and the Origin of Bon Odori.

We have also published a new post on the Tanahata festival of Sendai, August 2018.

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