Tag 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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Kimi no Na Wa and Musubi

kumihimo musubi S

Preface

Kimi no Na Wa is an extremely popular and powerful anime movie directed by Makoto Shinkai. We say “powerful” in that it is thought-provoking of matters outside the ordinary limits of time and space.

Musubi.  Kumihimo is a Japanese braiding method for making decorative and functional cords, and it is depicted in several scenes in the movie. Musubi is a knot, a tying together, of connecting people and things. The photo shows two kumihimo cords in a musubi knot.

Motohisa Yamakage has taught Koshinto through books such as The Essence of Shinto. Yamakage Sensei writes, “Musubi means to unite or bind together. … the concept of musubi signifies the proliferation of life and spirit. … the very process of creating and giving birth to life and spirit is described as musubi and we [Koshinto] place it in very high regard.”

Time and Space.  We have related the Tanabata Festival tale as the weaving of time and space. This is an observance since early Jomon times that takes place in the seventh night of the seventh lunar month, when the moon is only half-full and the stars in the Milky Way can clearly be seen. The word tanabata means a kind of weaving loom. So picture a fabric being woven with threads of warp and woof. The threads of the warp represent the flow of time, and the shuttling of the woof creates space.

Kimi no Na wa (君の名は) is an international hit movie, entitled Your Name in English. The warping and entangling of time and space is the theme of this metaphysical movie. Perhaps that’s why millions of people find the movie so intriguing.

In today’s essay, we consider how the movie conveys the message of Musubi through the imagery of braiding.

Early on in the movie, we see that Mitsuha lives with her sister and grandmother in a very small town in the rural land of Hida. Grandmother is priestess of an old shrine which has as its goshintai sacred object a megalith in the center of a meteor crater. Mitsuha serves as miko-san shrine maiden and performs a ritual at the shrine. Grandmother is also teaching Mitsuha to braid cords in the style of kumihimo. What, we wonder, is the significance of these elements?

Musubi in Kimi no Na wa

Grandmother’s explanation of Musubi uses the imagery of kumihimo. In one scene, Mitsuha and her sister are going with their grandmother on a pilgrimage to the sacred place of the megalith. On the way, Grandmother is explaining Musubi. We have restored the original word, kami, to the subtitles.

Musubi is the old way of calling the local guardian kami.

Tying thread is Musubi. Connecting people is Musubi.

These are all the kami’s power.

So the braided cords that we make are the kami’s art and represent the flow of time itself.

They converge and take shape. They twist, tangle, sometimes unravel, break, then connect again.

Musubi-knotting. That’s time.

Musubi

From the above, we can see that the concept of musubi is that of gathering and connecting. Grandmother has explained how people are connected in time and space, and she stresses the time element. This is the basic theme of the movie.

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Hotsuma Tsutae Aya One: “tati maiya” by Waniko

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tati maiya         mihuyu kami oki        

     Standing up;  when 3 years old hair-cutting ceremony

hatuhi-moti         Awa no uya ma hi        

     New Year’s day mochi, gave respect to Awa

momo ni hina         ayame ni ti maki         

     peach for Hinamatsuri, iris and mochi

tanahata ya          kiku-kuri iwahi.         

     Tanabata,  chrysanthemum-chestnut festival.

This is a continuation of the previous post, with a continuation of the verse. In this passage we see the traditional Japanese festivals of the year:  New Year’s day, third month Hinamatsuri Peach Festival, fifth month Boys’ Day Iris Festival, seventh month Tanahata Weaving Loom Star Festival (more about Tanahata Hosi Maturi in another article), and ninth month Chrysanthemum-Chestnut Festival. Many people even today think that the Tanahata or Tanabata festival came from China. You can see that it originated in the land of Wosite. It perhaps, much later in the Heian period, combined with the Chinese Weaver festival of Qixi.

As for the Peach Festival, WoshiteWorld has posted three articles beginning with  https://woshiteworld.wordpress.com/2016/03/10/origin-of-hinamatsuri/

Again, we thank JTC and Mr. Takabatake for kindly permitting us to present these excerpts from the Waniko book. For further information about the book, please refer to  http://www.jtc.co.jp/english/hotsuma/hotsuma.html and contact:  info2@jtc.co.jp.

tati-maiya

Hotsuma Tsutae Aya One: “Sono waka wa” by Waniko

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These opening lines from the  Hotsuma Tsutae appear in the Waniko edition published by the Japan Translation Center in 2001 and 2016. They are shown here with the kind permission of Mr. Seiji Takabatake of JTC. We wanted to show you how beautifully the writing of Waniko Yasutoshi from 1779 has been reproduced. For further information, please see our earlier post.

Hotsuma Tsutae Aya One

Hotsuma Tsutae Mihata no Hatu:  Kitu no na to homusi saru aya
Sore waka wa        wakahime no kami         

     That waka of Wakahime Kami,

suterarete       hirota to sotatu        

     Given away and taken up to raise

kanasaki no        tuma no chi wo ete        

     Kanasaki’s wife gave her milk

awa-u-wa ya        te uti sio no me        

     Baby clapping awa-u-wa with the gentle wife.

ume-re-hi wa        kasimi-ke sonae        

     On her birthday, he made an offering of cooked food.

Wesak Festival of Taurus Full Moon

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vesākha and Wesak

This post is about the Wesak Festival of May. When you do a search on the word, Wesak, you will learn that it comes from the lunar month named vesākha in the Hindu calendar. Further, that the Wesak Festival is the most important Buddhist festival of the year. However, the Wesak Festival which we describe here is not a religious festival but one observed by groups of spiritual practitioners all around the world. It is one of the three major full moon festivals of the year. The three Festivals are the Festival of Easter (Aries full moon), the Festival of Wesak (Taurus full moon, usually May), and the Festival of Goodwill (Gemini full moon).

This festival is quite unique in that it does not commemorate a past event, but rather an event that is taking place simultaneously at the time of the festival. And what is it that is taking place? Certain spiritual energies are being “beamed” by humans to great Minds or energetic Centers, which are sending cosmic energies to humankind on earth. This exchange is part of humanity’s growth as fully conscious beings.

Wesak was brought to the attention of the West by the mystic, Mme. Helena Blavatsky, and was further explained by Alice A. Bailey, frequently referred to as AAB. AAB, who was originally a conventional Christian minister, had two dreams of being present in Shambhala Valley high in the Himalayas. At that time, she did not understand what she was viewing, and only later through various sources did she realize that she had “witnessed” the Wesak ceremony of the Buddha, the Christ, and the pilgrims.

The Buddha represents the Light of Wisdom, while the Christ symbolizes Universal Love. There is a prophecy that humanity will achieve a higher consciousness when Wisdom and Love are co-joined.

Wesak Festival

From the Lucis Trust, the keeper of Alice Bailey materials, https://www.lucistrust.org/resources/wesak:

“The Wesak Festival, at the time of the Taurus full moon, marks the high-water mark of spiritual blessing in the world. There is an unusual inflow of life and of spiritual stimulation which serves to vitalize the aspiration of all humankind. The intuition of all who seek to serve the good, the beautiful and the true (regardless of their faith or spiritual background) is stimulated by this spiritual blessing.

“At Wesak we can visualize the aspiration of all people of goodwill being fused into a concentrated invocation to the Buddha, the Christ, and all Enlightened Beings on the inner side of life. This is a time for dedication, a time to hold ourselves steadily in the light, and above all, a time to focus on the needs of our fellow human beings and the necessity of providing a group channel whereby the spiritual forces can be poured through the body of humanity.”

“The Buddha’s annual return to bless people everywhere and to convey the message of wisdom, light and love is the outer evidence and guarantee of inner divine guidance and revelation in this present world cycle.”

See the beautiful video at https://www.lucistrust.org/productions/videos/view/wesak_video.

Alignments

At the time of the Taurus full moon, the following astronomical alignment takes place: Moon, Earth, Sun, Taurus constellation. In the figure below, note that the Earth is located in the blue orbit at the spot labelled May 21. The Sun “appears to be in Taurus” on May 21. The full Moon is not shown in this figure, and it is obviously on the other side of the Earth than the Sun, in the direction of Scorpio.

Zodiac image from Addison-Wesley Longman.

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Wesak is as well a time of alignment of consciousness. We align our human consciousness with the great consciousness of the universe. In AAB’s words, “At this time great expansions of consciousness become possible which are not possible at other times.”

 

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Hinamatsuri Peach Festival

ohinasamaWoshite World has posted three articles about the Hinamatsuri Peach Festival, also known as Girls Day or Dolls Day on March 3.

“It is said that Hinamatsuri originated in the Heian period as a form of play with dolls. In modern times it is a Girls Day festival held on the third day of March. One of the main elements is a display of dolls of Emperor and Empress (Tennnou and Kougou) and their court in Heian period dress. This is the true story behind Hinamatsuri and it reveals why it is also the peach blossom festival. This is the charming tale of childhood friends who became the fourth Amakami. The deep significance to their wedding is that it was the first time that the Amakami were recognized as a couple, and this led to societal changeover to a family-based system.”

The origin of this festival is described in Hotsuma Tsutae, Verse 265ff. It is the love story of the fourth Amakami, Uhitini and Suhitini. You can read the first part of the three-part post here:

https://woshiteworld.wordpress.com/2016/03/10/origin-of-hinamatsuri/