March 01, 2011

Joy of Spring

This  may be the first rite of the year to pray for good harvest of rice, called  "Rice Plating Ritual". 
It' s the rite of Shinto which is indigenous religion based on nature worship.

This rite  is held all over Japan. Some are rustic and others are refined.  Here the rite I saw is the one
which evokes a sense of nostalgia. It was held on February 25th
 in Sugawara Tenmangu Shrine in Nara.
There are many stone bulls. They are the messengers of the deity.

There are many stages in rice cultivation. In olden days,  farmers performed religious rites almost in each stage.  Nowadays the  number of the rites has decreased  and human labour has been rapidly replaced with machines. But  the farmers' prayers for a bountiful rice harvest  never change. 

These are offerings to the deity.


This is one of four boundaries which are made of twisted rice straw ropes with white zigzag paper.
They are stretched from corner to corner to enclose the square area where the rite is held.
They drive away evil and  protect the sacred area  .
An elderly farmer prays to the deity for the good harvest and plants bundles of pine leaves
which represent rice seedlings.

Then many stages of rice cultivation are shown comically.
He is cultivating  soil with his cattle pulling ploughs. He trys to tame the cattle,
 but it becomes out of control many times. People laugh and enjoy it.

He is working the field.

                                                  He is fertilizing the field with  human waste.

 He uses even the last drop of organic fertilizer, never wastes anything.

He is seeding.

He is pulling weeds.

Bundles of pine leaves, representing seedlings,  are being  thrown to people.


The rite is over.  This is the moment of sincere prayer as well as joy of spring.


This shrine is dedicated to Michizane Sugawara, the deity of wisdom. 
As he loved Ume, Japanese apricot very much, beautifully blooming Ume are here and there.


Outside of the shrine, there is a stand selling Japanese sweets for the visitors.
                   

                                     
                                                 

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19 comments:

  1. Very nice glimpses from your world. Wonderful act put up by the actor.

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  2. So much wonderful history and rituals that are practically unknown in countries as young as the US! I'm fascinated and thrilled to be able to see and learn so much about countries in the Mid/Far East. I've traveled a great deal, I've lived in Europe and in Mexico, but never the Far East. My curiosity was first stirred when I became the assistant to the president of a Japanese Silicon wafer manufacturing company. Thank you for sharing so much of the beauty and history! And enjoy your week!

    Sylvia

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  3. Wonderful images of celebration. Very nice.

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  4. I did not know such an interesting ritual held at Tenmangu in Nara. Your each of photos tells well about the story. Thank you for sharing them.

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  5. I feel like that I’m seeing on-the-spot broadcasting.

    All the movements of the actor is interesting, and the double-folded pink ume blossoms are exquisitely beautiful as well as the single white ones.

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  6. What gorgeous shots of a lovely tradition. And oh, those lovely blossoms!

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  7. Wonderful to see your old historical earth rituals being kept up.
    Beautiful pictures and I love the traditional costumes and ume blossoms.

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  8. It's like an open air-theater. Simple and somehow funny as it looks, it's a Shinto ritual for a prayer of good harvest on behalf of people, so performers must've been well prepared for that by purifying themselves.
    I am grateful to them for keeping this kind of tradition.

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  9. Very interesting. Thank you for sharing this ritual of Spring with us. I see when the actor is pulling weeds there is dichotomy of old meets new with the man on his cell phone just beyond him (great capture). I'm a huge fan of the ume blossom.

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  10. Your photos of the Rice Ritual are stunning. I like learning of these ancient customs. The Ume is fast becoming my favorite spring tree!

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  11. I have known that ritual at Tamukeyama-hachimanguu. But I didnt know that the rituals like that are held across Japan. The role of bull is importance and make people laugh,isn't it? Thank you for sharing this.

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  12. It is good to see Nara's festival. Although I am not familiar with Nara I think it must be treasure for photographers.

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  13. Your pictures are wonderful! I would love to see something like this if I ever go to Japan.

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  14. Spring is starting early on your part! I saw my friends also posting photos of ume...can't wait for Sakura! :)

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  15. 収穫を祈った儀式は、今や春を祝う優雅なお祭りのようで、皆さんの笑顔がまぶしく微笑ましいです。印象的なシーンを素早く、的確に捕えられていてとても(*゚▽゚ノノ゙☆ 素敵です♪ 大判焼きのお店もはずせないですよね(笑)雅な春をありがとう!
    Thanks for sharing graceful and humorous spring rite. Fantastic!!

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  16. Thank you for sharing this festival! Your photos are wonderful.

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  17. The event is very unique tradition. how to farm. Your picture looks very clear.
    I enjoy your photos.
    Very unique.

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  18. Personally I prefer cheerful ceremony like that rather than solemn one! It's very intriguing to have a rice planting ceremony in a shrine enshrining the God of wisdom, Michizane Sugawara! Ume blossoms looks awesome!
    Thanks for sharing and have a wonderful day.
    Yoshi

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  19. I just love the way you describe every tradition... They feel so vivid when I read your post ! The pictures are gorgeous too.

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