Mitakari festival: After prayers are said for a bountiful harvest at 10:00 AM, two men with kiyome no kami (purification papers) between their lips engage in a wrestling match. Off and on between 10:30 and 16:00, bouts of children's sumo wrestling will take place, and at some point several one-month-old babies are rolled around in the sumo ring, a practice which is believed to make them strong.

Needless to say, we decided that was a must-see. Unfortunately, the shrine where it took place proved to be off most of our maps. One guide book explained that to get there, you have to take a train, then a bus, then walk, and added ominously, It is an excellent place to view cherry blossoms, as its inaccessibility keeps even most locals away.

Given Stephanie's strained ankle, we decided to instead attend the Choyo no Sechi-e (Chrysanthemum festival) at Horinji Temple, in which chrysanthemum-flavored sake is served in honor of the Chinese legend about a wine of eternal youth. The temple is at Arashiyama, clearly a popular weekend getaway; we followed the hordes of tours, complete with flag-waving guides, away from the station until we reached the town center, along a river and backed with forested hills and tacky souvenir shops. We first ate lunch at a place mostly notable for a wall painting of what were probably supposed to be frogs, but which looked uncannily like male genitalia; and a particularly earsplitting waitress chorus of "Irasshiamase!" and "Arigatou gozaimashita! Okini!!!" ("Welcome! Thank you! (Regular Japanese) Thank you! (Kyoto dialect!))

Horinji Temple was crowded with sake fiends faithful worshippers, and I was delighted to hear the monks chanting the same chant Sumeragi Subaru uses when Kamui goes catatonic after something very bad happens to him in CLAMP's X: "Om maribori sowaka," or something like that. It was very hot. very very hot. Incense added to the heaviness of the air. The altar was decorated with chrysanthemums wearing small cloths and with a giant Japanese doll.

After the chanting, there was a brief Noh performance. At least I think that's what it was. A young man in a black kimono and a golden fan did a slow, stately dance/movement piece to the accompaniment of several drummers and chanters, plus one flutist (all oldish-- three men and a woman) and four young men whose job was to hold fans, do a brief introductory chant, then sit in seiza for twenty-five minutes. One closed his eyes and looked peaceful. The other three, after about ten minutes had gone by, looked like they could not wait to get out of there. At the end, they chanted for about ten minutes, then ceremoniously put away their fans.

The man doing the performance was very good, I thought, though I don't know much about Noh, if that was what it was. He was slow and hypnotic, face completely still, fan movements extremely precise. Sweat slowly dripped off his face, and off the faces of everyone else in the temple, performers and audience.

At the end, the chief monk came in and made an announcement in Japanese, thanking us for coming and announcing that sake would be served now. He then said what I am pretty sure was "Thank you for doing shugyo with us." That was pretty funny, as shugyo means "endurance training," like a weekend of doing karate all day.

Then the monks poured out sake into little saucers. There was a mad scramble, and after people drank their saucer, they handed it back to a frantic monk who rinsed it in a bucket, then wiped it off and handed it to someone who didn't have a saucer yet. I kept getting mine grabbed out from under me, until an old lady grabbed my wrist, and made me snatch a saucer from under the hand of an old man.

I drank my lucky sake, then Stephanie (who had gotten overheated and sat it out) and I caught a taxi to a moss temple, Giouji. or so we thought...

(To be continued!)
kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)

From: [personal profile] kate_nepveu

I'd be jealous except for the incense (which gives me splitting headaches) and the heat. Still, sounds very cool.

From: [identity profile]

Even temple incense? I can't stand the cheapo stuff you get here, but good temple incense doesn't bother me at all.
kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)

From: [personal profile] kate_nepveu

Even temple incense in Japan, though I can't say whether it was good or not.

From: [identity profile]

I love Japanese dance. How cool! Shugyou can mean any sort of training, including, I guess in this instance, a bit of religious education. :-) It does have an acetic implication, but that's not required, I guess.

From: [identity profile]

I was guessing he meant the sweating in the heat as asceticism, because people laughed. ;)
chomiji: A cartoon image of chomiji, who is holding a coffee mug and a book and wearing kitty-cat ears (Default)

From: [personal profile] chomiji

I like the dressed-up chrysanthemums!

(Saotome Sensei at DC Aikikai tradtionally had his summer seminar in Washington DC, and his winter one in Chicago, with open-air practices included for extra-effective shugyo ... .)


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