Festivals of Japan


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quoted from About.com

"Matsuri" is a noun, derived from a verb, "matsu" meaning "to wait" or "to invite" or in a wider sense "to be submissive". In such a feeling of worship and esteem something superhuman is waited and invited. It could be earth, water or the sun, empowered to grow plants. It might be a thunder, storm or earthquake for violent actions to be displayed beyond human control. In plains, mountains, rivers and seas there are "kami" or guardian deities to be feared in worship. The moon and stars in heaven would also be objectsof worship. More characteristically in Shintoism in Japan, spirits of the deceased are worshiped to seek lesson and requests from ancestors, which are to regulate one's conducts and to be handed down to descendants. To express such worship and to gain understanding between the worshiped and the worshiper "matsuri" are performed.

There are certain prerequisited to a "matsuri" as originally observed. The worshiped would request a pure and clean place to be invited to and a proper sign to indicate its location. It must be in darkness for the worshiped to sit on the prepared seat of "matsuri". The worshiper on the other hand should have such a pure and clean site of "matsuri" prepared and fresh food ready to be offered to the worshiped. For presiding a "matsuri" the worshiper must condition himself be observing a taboo, purifying himself by bathing in water and concentrate himself in spirit. Such preparation for a "matsuri" takes longer in time, as the "spiritual rank" of the worshiped is higher. Those high in ranking are called "kami" or deity goods.

The worshiper in a "matsuri" is required to be a descendant of the worshiped, and when not related in blood, a spiritual line is assumed. The concept of spiritual relations was adopted in later years in the system of "ujigami" parish, in which people in a region were made proteges of the shrine governing the locality. The head of a tribe or family would preside the "matsuri" and a "miko" maiden would act as a medium to hear words of the "kami" in presence.

The original purpose of a "matsuri" to learn what a "kami" had to tell was gradually changed to the one-way request to the worshiped made through "prayers". The selection of persons for regular perfromance of "matsuri" came into existence, though there are still some localities where the "matsuri" is presided by those chosen in rotation from among local villagers.

The annual schedule of "matsuris" seems to have been set early in the history of Japan. At the beginning of a year "matsuris" are are observed to pray for and celebrate in advance over a good harvest. In spring the start of an agricultural season is reported to "kami" in "matsuri". The summer "matsuri" is a prayer for stamping out noxious insects and the autumnal "matsuri" is designed to be a thanks-giving affair.

More and more non-scheduled, extraordinary "matsuris" came to be observed, as the ages advanced, upsetting their old established procedures, for they could not be prepared for, as in case of the regular "matsuris". One important consequence of such irregular "matsuris" was the alleviation of taboos.

The first step in a "matsuri" is the arrival of the "kami" which is usually seen at night. Then the offering of food and wine is made to the seat of the "kami". The offering would include staple grains, fish and vegetables, cooked and prepared as though to threat guests at home. After the service the food is shared by all in a tradition, handed down from the days of the mixed dinner party of gods and men.

During the course of a "matsuri" a dance may be performed as a means of spititual concentration for the worshiper. The prayer to the worshiped is a practice seen in the loss of power or techniques to receive words from "kami". As suggested by the sharing of the offering after the "matsuri" is to place the worshipers as close in spiritual ranking with the worshiped as possible.

Another cause for "matsuri" to be observed apart from the mass of people is found in the procession of "kami" to the place of "matsuri", which became more elaborate. it was easier for masses to enjoy as onlookers than to go through the taboo requirements for suffering.

Matsuri Today
Having lost the religious significance, "matsuri" today are enjoyed by participants and onlookers more for what used to be only additive to their essential meaning. some of them provide shrine proteges with opportunities for recreation and amusement and some others demonstrate scenes of interest in the name of tradition.

It is intended now to describe some of the things you may, as onlookers, come to see in "matsuris". The foregoing information of the historical backgrounds of "matsuri" festival in Japan is hoped to be for your better appreciation of "matsuri" scenes.

.. .. .. Mikoshi

In the "matsuri" of a shrine the "kami" is moved to the place of service on a "mikoshi" palanquin, which is usually described as a miniature shrine or portable shrine in English. A "mikoshi" should not be taken for a shrine beyond the sense that there is a "kami" inside in a "matsuri" procession. It had better be called a sacred palanquin to be more closely identified.

A "mikoshi" consists of a roof, body and stand. It may be lacquered in black with many metal decorations on the surface and square, hexagonal or octagonal in shape. The possible origin of "mikoshi" is said to be found in the Nara Period, when the "kami" of the Hachiman Shrine in Usa was invited on a purple palanquin to Nara for the constructin of the "Daibutsu" Great Statue of Budda.

A "mikoshi" on its way the place of "matsuri" service is carried by young men who are not supposed to provide the "kami" with a smooth, fast ride. Instead they make it in a zigzag, swaying in all directions and pushing the "mikoshi" up and down, often very violently to amuse the "kami". The movement of a "mikoshi" is considered to be directed by the will of the "kami" beyond the control of those shouldering it.

Without a "mikoshi" a "matsuri" lacks proper atomospheres. Though a "mikoshi" is only a means of transportation for the "kami" to the place of service and non-essentioal an element in the "matsuri" from the religious point of view, it has been made to bring a highlight to the festive occasion. The only religious excuse for making the "mikoshi" more elaborate in style in more gorgeous a procession is to please and amuse the "kami".

In some "matsuri" festivals, "mikoshi" of several shrines are brought together. In some others the "mikoshi" is carried into a river or sea for the "mikoshi washing". Still in other "matsuris", "mikoshis" are brought into contests of one kind or another, often causing blood to shed. A "mikoshi" in procession is sometimes seen running into homes. Such accidents are regarded as lucky omens by some and worried about by others as penalties for the lack of faith.

.. .. .. Dashi

In the original meaning a "dashi" is a landing mark for the "kami". What is called a "dashi" today is a colorfully decorated festive float which is equipped with a "dashi" for the "kami" to land. Festive floats are found in two types; "hoko" on wheels to be pulled and "yama" to be carried on the shoulders, as well and gorgeously displayed in the Gion Matsuri of Kyoto. In other words a "dashi" is combined with a "hoko" or "yama" to make up a moving seat of "kami".

The annual "matsuri" is indeed a highlight in community life in Japan. Particularly in summer, when more "matsuris" are observed that other seasons of the year, people are out fully to enjoy fold dances and other amusement programs in addition to carrying the "mikoshi" and "dashi".
There are many strange and queer "matsuris" in the country. Young men would brave the freezing winter weather in shorts in a hustling contest for good luck charms at various shrines. In some others, participants speak against each other in all insulting words to decide a lucky winner. Still other are held in darkness and silence for a solemn religious session, often to end in an undesirable state of manners. There are many others, reflecting local colors and traditions.



Matsurigoto 政

The importance of a matsuri, a festival for the appeasement of the deities, can also be seen in the word matsurigoto, a word that originated in the performance of religious festivals by the emperor or regent and soon became identical with "governing" in general.

The rule of the state was referred to as matsurigoto, a word very close to that for religious ritual - matsuri - that was used to refer to both government and worship. The Emperor and the court had very clear religious obligations, ceremonies that had to be carried out meticulously to make sure that the kami looked after Japan and its people.

These ceremonies (which soon included as many Buddhist and Confucian elements as they did Shinto) became part of the administrative calendar of the Japanese government. This court liturgical calendar continued to play a major part in Japanese government until virtually the present day.

Festival (matsuri) in itself is a kigo for all summer. 祭, natsu matsuri 夏祭り


Some Links

Japanese Festivals: January - April
Japanese Festivals: May - August
Japanese Festivals: September - December
List of Festivals, September 2005

Japanese Fall Festivals
Japanese Plum Festivals

Japanese Festival Photos

Aomori Nebuta Festival

Cherry Blossom Festivals

Halloween in Japan

Kyoto Gion Festival

Nara Todaiji Temple Shuni-e ceremony

Phallic Festivals in Japan

Sapporo Snow Festival

Tanabata -Star Festival

More about Festivals


From this source about Japan


.. .. .. From the World Kigo Discussion Forum

Buddhist Ceremonies and Events, a topical Saijiki

Some events in January in Japan

September Festivals as Kigo

Festivals of October around Tokyo

Japanese Festivals, Autumn

Japanese Festivals With many links

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Gabi Greve said...

Link about Festivals, Matsuri, with some photos



Gabi Greve said...

. Annual Events in Tokyo - A List of potential Kigo .