Category Archives: Seasons

2020 Spring Festivals in Kyoto Postponed

Aoi Matsuri, May 2018

The Aoi Matsuri, the so-called Hollyhock Festival of Kyoto, is one of Kyoto’s finest events. Around 500 people participate in the procession in Heian period dress. The photo above was taken by Okunomichi on May 15, 2018.

Green Shinto has posted a timely article on festivals in Kyoto that are postponed this year because of the pandemic. They include the Aoi Matsuri of May 15, 2020.

In Japan the emergency has coincided with the flowering of cherry blossom, symbolic of life’s brief beauty. 

Green Shinto informs us that this festival began in the 6th century to appease the kami.

The festival is claimed as one of the oldest in Japan, with its roots in the sixth century according to the Nihon shoki (720). It may have been that an epidemic had spread through the country at a time of famine and earthquake.

An earlier post on Okunomichi mentions the Aoi Matsuri along with other ancient festivals. According to the Wosite documents as reported by WoshiteWorld, there were from Wosite Jomon times these seasonal festivals:

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

There is a wonderful video of the Yasurai Festival at Imamiya Jinja, in the same Green Shinto post.

We look forward to the resumption of the traditional observances next year.

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Greetings of Spring 2020

Western redbud in bloom

This year, we are having a very early spring equinox. Astronomical spring arrives on  March 19th at 9:49 pm MDT. Already, we see signs of spring, such as the redbud and plum blossoms. On a recent walk, we delighted in the variety of colors and shapes — and scents!

Nature is full of life. So creative in the variety of leaves and flowers.

Look for the honeybee on the yellow freesias and amongst the wisteria blossoms. It is so gratifying to see our pollinator friends.

And a beautiful blue sky.

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Happy New Year!

Winter solstice sunrise at the Higashinoyama Megaliths in Central Japan, December 2019. Photo by Chika.

Winter Solstice at the Kanayama Megaliths

The Kanayama Megaliths from the Jomon period have been following the path of the sun in the sky for thousands of years. Thirty observations are made per year to determine the super-accurate solar calendar, an astronomical calendar. One of the most important observations is shown above. The photo was taken by Chika-san at Higashinoyama on December 22, 2019 when the sun rose above the neighboring mountains, and appeared directly ahead of the 9-meter long megalith.

Civil and Astronomical New Years

In many countries, the new year begins on the first day of January. Why? It is a civil calendar created for Western society beginning with the Roman calendar for the running of society. Astronomical calendars are based on major astronomical events such as solstices and equinoxes or risings of important stars and asterisms.

Astronomical New Year

In ancient societies in Europe and in Asia, indigenous people eagerly awaited the the return of the sun to their hemisphere after winter. They used an astronomical calendar. They carefully determined winter solstice day, the shortest day of the year and the day when the sun is lowest in the sky. They celebrated, for the sun is returning!

There are revival ceremonies in Japan to welcome back the sun. One of them is the Asadori Winter Solstice ritual that has continued for thousands of years in Central Japan.

Bonfire before and after being lit on winter solstice morning at Asadori shrine. Photo by Chika.

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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.]

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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

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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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December Solstice Greetings

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Megalith for viewing winter solstice sunrise (photo by S. Tokuda)

 

One Earth, One Sun, One People

In ancient cultures, winter solstice day was the beginning of the new year. On this shortest day of the year, people knew that the next day would start to be slightly longer, and spring would be coming. Winter solstice is a symbol of rebirth and regeneration.

December 21 and 22 mark the days of the solstice which we call the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, summer solstice in the Southern Hemisphere.

Iwakage has posted an article entitled, Winter Solstice 2017. It gives some of the dates and times in various time zones around the world. At the instant of time that is astronomical solstice, it is already early Friday morning of the 22nd in Japan, where Iwakage is located. One of the “earliest” times is in Hawaii when the solstice occurs at 6:28 a.m. on the 21st.

To our readers around the world, thank you for visiting us:

U.S., Japan, France, Italy, U.K., Australia, Canada, Brazil, Germany, Morocco, Russia, Netherlands, Spain, India, Philippines, Hungary, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Ireland, Belgium, Mexico, Switzerland, Estonia, Chile, Thailand, New Zealand, Serbia, Bulgaria, Portugal, Austria, S. Korea, Ukraine, Argentina, Finland, Romania, Poland, Taiwan, Switzerland, Slovenia, S. Africa, Israel, Greece, E.U., Norway, Cape Verde, Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Peru, Denmark, United Arab Emirates, Colombia, Turkey, China, Iceland, Belarus, Croatia, Pakistan, Latvia, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Lithuania, Puerto Rico, Slovakia, Venezuela, Panama, and eighty other countries.

Seeing the names of these 150 countries truly impresses upon us that we are all One People living on this Earth under our Sun. Solstices, equinoxes, and all the days of the year come to all of us. Although the times on our clocks may differ, these astronomical times are the exact same moment for all of us.

Okunomichi wishes every one of you a Happy New Year!

 

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