11/10/2006

Wisteria Cutting

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Wisteria Cutting Ceremony (Fuji Kiri Eshiki)

***** Location: Japan, Yamanashi Prefecture
***** Season: Early Summer. May 8
***** Category: Observance


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Explanation

藤切り会式、大善寺(山梨県勝沼町)

This ceremony takes place at the temple Daizen-Ji in Yamanashi prefecture on May 8. (It used to be May 14.)

Since this ceremony is not an official kigo, it is sometimes used with other kigo in haiku.

The parishioners of this temple cut some strong wisteria vines, some more than 5 to 6 cm in diameter and about 30 meters long, and bind them into a ring (fujitsuru 藤蔓, symbolizing the fearful snake. At the front they bind a red piece of cloth, symbolizing the horns and bloody tongue. They also paint eyes on it.

Two days before the festival, they erect a special tree trunk (go shinboku 御神木) of about 7 meters in the temple grounds and wind this snake around it seven and a half times.

On the day of the festival, mountain ascetics proceede, blowing their conches, and the young and student monks walk along with them. There is also some entertainment, like the young ones dancing and a dance with swords.

Finally a mountain ascetic (yamabushi 山伏) climbs up the tree, cuts the "snake" and throws it among the crowd, who try each to capture a piece of it. The pieces serve as talismans for good harvest and protect from evil.

Since the vines of the wisteria are bound together strongly, the more you tear, the more they hold together. Sometimes it takes the firebrigade and a saw to cut them apart. In former times, each farmer was even allowed to bring his own saw.

The festival is held in memory of En no Gyoja (En no Gyooja 役の行者, who fought with a fierce snake at Mt. Omine San.

In the long course of time, the name of this festival came to be used as a kigo for haiku.
This area of Yamanashi is also famous for its grapes, see the story below.

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大善寺藤切り祭り だいぜんじ ふじきりまつり

大蛇を形どる藤づるを法印で刀で切り落とし、参拝者が奪い合う勇壮な祭り。ぶどうの歴史と深く関わる大善寺は、行基の創建として伝えられる古刹で、 本尊の薬師如来(重要文化財)を安置している薬師堂は国宝に指定されている。

http://www.rurubu.com/event/detail.asp?ID=12438


Main HP of the Temple (in Japanese)

This temple belongs to the Shingon sect of Esoteric Buddhism.


Statue of Yakushi Nyorai, the Buddha of Healing
http://katsunuma.ne.jp/~daizenji/
http://katsunuma.ne.jp/~daizenji/kito.htm

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Worldwide use


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Things found on the way


Quote from the pilgrim G. Blankestijn

The Yakushi Hall

After buying a ticket at the temple office, I walk up a stone staircase, pass through an old gate, and then stand in front of the square Yakushi Hall. Five-bays wide, its dark brown walls supporting a shingled roof with slightly upturned corners, it forms a perfect harmony between strength and elegance. The temple's founding predates the hall by three centuries, but from that period only three statues, the Yakushi triad in the zushi, the closed altar cabinet, remain, and those are usually not on view.

The altar cabinet itself, dating from 1473, is a national treasure, and is beautifully decorated with woodcarvings. On the flanks of the altar other statues from the Kamakura period such as Nikko and Gekko, the Boddhisattvas of the Sun and Moon, have been placed.

I receive a detailed explanation about the temple's history from a friendly and loquacious priest in the hall, while I kneel in the shadows before the altar. He apologizes for the fact that I can not view the main image, the Yakushi. "A hidden Buddha, it is only shown once every five years, and then only for a few days. But there is a picture of the statue on the altar."

The large color picture in front of the zushi is so realistic, that in the dark hall I first took it for the real image. The Yakushi has a strong and individualized face, as is the case with other statues from early Heian. The priest then speaks about something new to me: the strong link between the temple and the grapevines surrounding it, through the person of the Yakushi. The Yakushi is the Buddha of Healing, both mentally and physically, and is often depicted carrying a small medicine jar in his left hand. In the past, temples in Japan fulfilled the same function as Europe's monasteries: that of hospitals, infirmaries and apothecaries. They often possessed gardens where medicinal herbs were grown.

The Healing Grape
And one of those herbs," explains the priest, "was the grape." The grape, of course, is loaded with symbolism also in the West. In Christianity, grape wine symbolizes the blood of Christ. Wine is the elixir of life. Behind this may also have been a belief in the healing properties of the grape itself.

"In Central Asia and China," continues the priest, "there are statues of the Yakushi carrying a grape instead of the medicine jar. The grape was a medicine, and people also believed that it served to ward off evil. Of course, the grape was not indigenous to Japan, but it was brought here with Buddhism from the Asian mainland."

The Healing Buddha has brought the grape to Katsunuma. In Daizenji and other temples, this medicinal plant from Central Asia was grown in the herb garden. Without the temples, there would have been no grapevines. Is it therefore thanks to Daizenji that Yamanashi is famous for its wine?

"That is a bit exaggerated," smiles the modest priest. "Moreover, the old vines were quite a different type from today's Muscat grapes, that have been crossbred with varieties from overseas." Nevertheless, it is a nice thought that this tranquil temple is responsible for one of the pillars of Yamanashi Prefecture's modern economy and tourism. It is an aspect that is apparently forgotten - I have not found it mentioned in any guidebook.

I walk around the hall, and inspect the statues on the altar from close range. Looking at the woodcarvings of the altar cabinet, I discover something that strengthens the priest's theory about the link between the Yakushi Buddha and the grapevines: along the top of the sides of the cabinet elaborate vines have been carved.

Copyright © 2003-2006 Ad G. Blankestijn



Yakushi Nyorai by Mark Schumacher

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HAIKU


一山に 秘めたる祭り 五月来る
hito yama ni himetaru matsuri gogatsu kuru

石原林ヶ Ishihara

the festival brings
mystery to the temple ground -
May has come
(Tr. Gabi Greve)



藤切会 待つ少年の 五月来る
Fujikiri-e matsu shoonen no gogatsu kuru

坂本普 Sakamoto

Cutting the Wisteria Vines -
the boy waited so long,
now May has come

(Tr. Gabi Greve)

Buddhist and Shinto Events, Saijiki

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藤切りや 我が煩悩も 切り去りぬ
fujikiri ya waga bonnoo mo kirisarinu

Fuji Cutting !
all my delusions are
cut and gone

Gabi Greve
More about Bonno, the 108 worldly delusions

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Related words

***** . Wisteria blossoms (fuji, fuji no hana 藤) .

kigo for late spring

and more wisteria kigo.



. shinboku 神木, shinju 神樹 sacred tree .


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. OBSERVANCES – SUMMER SAIJIKI .


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4 comments:

sakuo said...

It is the first time to hear Fuji-cuting festival.
thank you for your introduction on old custom in Yamanashi that is next prefecture to Shizuoka where is my native town.

sakuo.

Anonymous said...

wisteria trellis--
behind it, in the light
wildflowers


fuji-dana ya ushiro akari no kusa no hana

.藤棚や後ろ明りの草の花

by Issa, 1809

In one text, Issa copies this haiku with the prescript, "Toogan Temple wisteria temple solicitation."
His point in the haiku, perhaps, is that Nature gives its gifts freely--the wildflowers in the light--and has nothing to do with the money-making of the Buddhist temple with its wisteria trellis and request for donations.

Tr. David Lanoue。
http://cat.xula.edu/issa/

sakuo said...

この一茶の句は一度David 先生から送られてきました。
よく意味が分りません。
すこし考えて見ます。


sakuo

. Gabi Greve said...

.

Wisteria (fuji) and Haiku
.