December 18, 2009

The Biggest Shinto Festival in Nara

The deity of Young Prince Shrine in Kasuga Grand Shrine travels once a year. Every year on December 17th, he moves to a temporally built traveling place (1 kilometer to the west of Young Prince Shrine) to stay there, and goes back in 24 hours.

While his staying in the traveling place, people offer a variety of performances in front of him to please him. He enjoys entertainment of the people behind the bamboo curtain.

In the 12th century, the country was suffering a long period of rain which caused a serious famine. People invited Young Prince to the traveling place to ask him for help. This is the origin of Honorable Festival dedicated to him. This festival is the biggest festival in Nara and is famous for the traditional procession.

Can you guess what they are doing in the procession? A hint is that many horses also are joining the procession.

Maybe even Shinto deity is tired of daily routines and needs to travel. Some Shinto deities are much like human-beings. They love, fight, get sad and happy. In many ways, Shinto deities are compared to Greek gods and goddesses. It's interesting there are many similarities in both Japanese and Greek mythologies.

note: Shinto is a indigenous religion based on nature worship in Japan.

December 17, 2009

She may be thinking her baby's name・・・・・

She will be a young mother next spring.

After birth, mothers and babies are kept carefully in the Deer Pen in Kasuga Grand Shrine for a while. New-born babies make a debut in the Nara Park late spring or early summer. How cute they are! Let's go to see them next spring!

note:Every year about 100 deer are born and about the same number die.

December 13, 2009

Why are Christmas decorations everywhere?

Here are Christmas illuminations in front of a church on the Higashimuki Street near Kintetsu Nara Station. Many people stop and take pictures.      

This time of year, Japan is filled with red and green decorations, and stores play Jingle Bells. Even such a small alley is decorated with modest Christmas lights.

Only one percent of Japanese population is Christian. Why are Christmas decorations everywhere?

Maybe Japanese people put a lot of emphasis on the seasons and feel the aesthetic beauty of the seasonal changes. In the old Japanese calendar, besides 4 seasons, there are even 24 seasonal divisions in a year. Now Christmas is becoming 25th seasonal division for us.

Or just are we Christmas Christian・・・・・?

December 07, 2009

Why was she running?

Here running was s shrine maiden of Kasuga Grand Shrine wearing a beautiful crown of wisteria flowers. A shrine maiden is supposed to behave gracefully. Why was she running? Because it was the busiest day in Kasuga Grand Shrine. The luckiest day(大安) in the old fortune-telling calendar ,in which six different fortunes come in the order, fell on Sunday. So there were more ceremonial occasions than usual.

When we hold special ceremonies such as a wedding ceremony, a one- month- old baby’s blessing ceremony and so on, we still examine the fortune-telling calendar and choose the luckiest day which comes once in every six days.

Many calenders and pocket diaries tell us six days cycle in the fortune-telling calendar. There are no scientific proofs at all but this idea is deeply rooted in our DNA. Really Japan is a wonderland where the old and the new coexist side by side in harmony.
(This is an old calender for 2010 sold at a book store at the price of 300yen.)

Suppose you have a wedding ceremony. Will you choose the luckiest day(大安) or the worst day(仏滅) for the ceremony?

December 06, 2009

Do you choose a shrine?

Do you know what deity the shrine is dedicated to
when you visit a shrine?
In Shinto, there are eight million gods and goddesses. And each of them has each specialty. If you have a very special wish which must be granted, examine their specialty carefully and choose the right one. It is more effective to make your wish come true than offering a lot of おさい銭 money.

Look at these votive tablets in the shape of a heart. Can you guess what kind of specialty they have? Here enshrined are a couple deities of matchmaking. They are believed to bring people together. Why don’t you come here to write a votive tablet, if you want to have a good partner! This shrine is to the south of Wakamiya Shrine in Kasuga Grand Shrine.

Originally this building where the couple deities are enshrined was a kitchen to prepare food for a god. That’s why on the roof top is an elevated window which was used as the smoke outlet.

December 05, 2009

Answer of the little quiz

Sarari, you are right. It is a bullet dating back to the 16th century. Todaiji Temple was involved in the civil wars between the Miyoshi and Matsnaga Clans. The army of The Miyoshi stationed in Todaiji Temple. The area around Grand South Gate became a intense battle field.
There must have been many bullets in the pillars, but now only one of them has survived. It is amazing that we can yet see and touch the 16th century bullet.