December 25, 2011

He travels once a year.

The children in traditional attire. When my son was five years old, he was one of them.

On-maturi (Honorable Festival)   is the largest festival in Nara which is held on December 17th every year. Actually the festival continues for 4 days from the 15th to the 18th,  and the 17th is the climax as the traditional costume parade and art performance are held.  These parade and the art performances  are the offerings to a deity, called "Young Prince",  the son of Kasuga gods in Kasuga Grand Shrine.

Horse races are part of the festival. Too fast to catch them!

The origin of the festival dates back to the 12th century when rain did not stop and this unusual weather caused a  very bad famine. People were tormented. They decided to ask Young Prince for his help. They invited the deity to a temporary shrine and entertained him by showing traditional art performances. Prayers were granted soon.

One of characteristics of this festival is that many children participate.

This bamboo gate is a boundary to lead to the most sacred place, the temporary shrine.

This is the temporary shrine made of black pine tree branches.
Behind the bamnboo curtain, Young Prince sits and enjoys the parade and performing arts.
 I like this idea that the deity travels once a year  from his shrine to the temporary shrine,
and there he is entertained. 

In front of the temporary shrine, the shrine maidens perform the sacred dances and prayers.

Six performers covering their faces with a white mask,
dance very simple but mysterious dances.
This is based on the legend that the goddess of sea was ugly
and even her face was covered with acorn barnacles.
So, when she was summoned, she appeared with a white mask to hide her face.

The performances are going on and on.

The first Torii gate is decorated with holly Nagi tree branches.

(These photos were taken just before the parade would start.)
Just before the procession starts, the participants are gathering. Some of them are tense and others are relaxed.

He is rechecking the itinerary of the festival.

The other main characters are horses. Some of them are really excited.

On the 15th December, the costumes for the festival are exhibited.

At the same day, a shrine maiden performs "Boiling Water" ritual to invite the local deities
to pray to them for the success of the festival.

May all bad things be gone with 2011 and all good things come with 2012.
I wish your Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

December 11, 2011

Sayonara, Autumn leaves

Nothing lasts forever. Now is the time to say Good-Bye, Sayonara to autumn leaves. I enjoyed not only the countless hues of autumn colours on the trees but also myriad of autumn colours of carpets of fallen leaves.

In autumn the maple front comes down from north to south while in spring the cherry blossom front goes up from south to north. 

But autumn of this year was unusual because of the recorded high temperatures. The sharp coldness  and the temperature difference between day and night are needed for the trees to create brilliant autumn colours.  Many people sighed saying " Too slow and blurry."

When authentic coldness came at last,  many of the trees  seemed to be  bewildered  whether they would turn autumn colours or fall leaves down.

Some of them are  hanging on the trees and others are on the ground.  Regardless whether autumn leaves are brilliant or blurry, whether they are on trees or the grounds,  I enjoy them with deep thanks to the nature.

 The fallen leaves on the bottom of a shallow river.

Migrating wild geese are resting their wings here. The scenery looks like glowing crimson. 

 Ginkgo leaves on a stone basin, this world is small. But while gazing at them,
I feel it represents something more.

 Thanks, autumn leaves, see you again!

I am going to Osaka to stay with my mother for a while because of her health problem and will not be able to use PC probably. When I come back, I'll catch up .

December 04, 2011

World under water

I came back from Tokyo. While staying with my son in Tokyo, I could scarcely use PC because of malfunction of my son's computer. I will catch up!

At night in Kyoto,  many autumn leave viewing spots were lit up. But winter brought cold strong winds and the autumn leaves started to fall. The other day I visited Kodai-ji Temple in Kyoto. People flocked here as the temple is famous for the beauty of the autumn leaves in its grounds. Especially reflections of myriad of autumn colours on the pond is breathtaking at night !

Reflections on "Lying Dragon Pond (臥龍池)
People are wondering  if it is a mysterious reflection
or there is another world under water.
They are bewitched and sigh with admiration.

Autumn leaves please the eye in many ways. The reflection is one of them.

It is hard to say which is reflection and which is real.

These reflections remind me of Tale of Heike which is the story about the glory and ruin of the Heike Clan based on the historical battles between the Heike and Genji clans fought in the 12th century.  But finally  Heike Clan were defeated by Genji Clan off-shore Dan-no-ura. Many of Heikes committed suicide by throwing themselves into to the water. Holding a six-year-old Emperor, Nun Nii said to him "There is another world under waves, so let go with me." Remembering this wistfulness of the story and seeing these reflections,   the transience of life is reminded deeply.

Kodai-ji Temple which was founded by Nene in 1606. Nene was a wife of Toyotomi Hideyoshi who built Osaka Castle and almost  came to the pinnacle of  power to govern Japan  even though he came from a poor farming family. 

The temple has  beautiful bamboo groves.When I looked up the bamboos,
 I felt as if I had been on the bottom of the sea.

In the temple, there are many pieces of white paper  tied to ropes. They  are divine fortune papers. If you find your fortune not good, you tie your fortune paper to a tree branch or a rope. Your bad fortune will be driven away. If it is good, you keep it with you. 

People are climbing down the lovely stone steps of the temple.

They are not real Maiko. They are enjoying to disguise themselves as Maiko.
Maikos never take photos during their working time.
 In Kyoto there are a lot of stores where tourists can rent Maiko costumes or Kimono

One of charms of Kyoto is that there are many lovely stone-paved alleys everywhere
 like this. Soft light comes through  lattice windows and casts  warm shadows.
An alley in front of Yasaka Pagoda.