January 30, 2011

Fire for Purification

Every year Mt. Wakakusa in Nara is set on fire in January. But, why?

The origin of  "Mountain Burning Ceremony"  was  based on a ghost story. According to an old story, a ghost haunted around a small tomb on the top of the mountain and scared people. So, they decided to burn the entire mountain to console the ghost's spirit. Since then, every January Mt. Wakakusa Burning Ceremony has been held.  In Japan fire is used for purification both in Shinto( indigenous religion of Japan) and Buddhism. This ceremony dates back to 1760.

 I visited  Heijo Palace Site,  which was the center of Japan in 8th century, to enjoy viewing the ceremony. This year it was held on January 22nd.

                       In east, night started.
This structure is the reproduction of the ancient  Imperial Audience Hall.

                                             But, in west, still sunset stayed.

Six hundred fire works  were set off  and adorned the night sky.

The entire mountain was set ablaze.

On the way back to the station, I found a tranquil  reflection in a pond.

Click to see the rules and to take a badge for yourself.

January 16, 2011

Japan's Future Smiling With Hope !

It was a cold winter day, but here was a spring-like pomp of the new adults who reached the age of 20. ( January 10th was Coming-of-Age Day.) 

Do you remember the day when you reached the age of 20?  I smiled like them and believed dreams would come true.

Coming-of-Age Day is a national holiday held on the second Monday of January -  January 10th, this year. Local governments hold large-scale ceremonies for all the young men and women who have turned 20 in the previous year.  At the age of 20, they get the right to vote, smoke, drink and marry without their parents' permission. Most of  women wear formal kimono with long sleeves, while majority of men are dressed in suits.  This is the day when all over Japan are filled with myriad of colors of kimono.

The number of the people who came of age in 2010 is about 1.24 million and is less than 1 percent of the total population.

 The new adults were born in 1990 when in Japan the bubble economy was going to burst and in the world Iraq invaded Kuwait to lead to the Gulf War.

Japan has been going through many difficulties and they are the generation who are to shoulder the burden of the country such as the huge national debt, the increasing pension premiums, medical costs, aging population, and more. I feel very sorry for them but it is impossible to choose the time to be born.

Let's stop seeing the negative side. Standing just at the threshold of the adulthood,  how thoroughly delighted they are!  They are the Japan's future smiling, brimming with hope!! I'm sure they will courageously confront the issues.

They are also the generation who are always tapping on their mobile phones and updating the information in their social network. They have the amazing ability to make free use of IT or digital devices. People, my age never catch up with them.

The new adults are interviewed by a reporter of a  newspaper company.
 We see the amazing fusion of the traditional and the modern  here and there!

   Bon voyage! May their smiles and happiness last for a long long time!          


January 08, 2011

Heavy Drunk・・・ in Noh Play

I had never expected to see a heavy drunk in Noh.

 He is "Shojo(猩々)". "Shojo" is the title of the Noh play as well as the name of  a legendary creature who lives in the water and loves Sake, Japanese rice wine, very much. His red face tells us he is a heavy drinker.

 When I was a teenager, my mother took me to a Noh theater.  It was the first time for me to  enjoy Noh play. The theater was very comfortable and cozy, and Noh performance was very slow as if  sculptures were walking. Chanting the story and playing Japanese traditional musical instruments sounded like a soft lullaby. All of the art helped me feel drowsy.  I fell asleep and scarcely  remembered what I saw.

Since then I had had stereotype of Noh plays," Noh is highly stylized theatrical art, I know, but  not exiting. Movements are too slow and the language is too  hard to understand. Noh is for the people as old as my mother."

"Shojo" completely overturned my stereotype of Noh.  "How exciting Noh is!!"

He is a good drinker, but drinks like a fish. More sake he drinks, happier he becomes.
 Now he is dancing joyfully.

He shows a number of funny drunken behaviors. Does he remind you of anybody,
 your husband, father or brother when they are drunken?


He stumbles and loses his balance. 

At last, he collapses. 

 In olden days Noh was performed on an open-air, simple stage like this. The sun, the sky, clouds, trees, everything around the stage become the effective stage backdrops. Clouds cast mysterious shadows time to time. A gust of the wind brings murmurs of the trees. Crows fly over the stage cawing. 

A deer also comes to enjoy Noh play.

 To perform "Shojo" is  auspicious. Why is the Noh play of a heavy drinker auspicious? I suppose sake is involved in  almost all ceremonial and happy occasions. So, to have sake is associated with happiness and joy.  Also Sake is  a very important item to offer to Shinto deities every day. That's why "Shojo" is considered as an auspicious play.

After watching Noh,  I pondered for a while. When I was young, I lived fast and loved something exciting. Now,  I am older than my mother at that time and  I became to enjoy Noh. Is it  because of my age or the exciting play?

Nara is said to be the cradle of Noh as the original  four schools of Noh were born  here. In olden days, the prototype of Noh would be performed  in front of a shrine as  the offereing to Shinto deities.