Tori no Ichi, or Tori Fair, is a religious fair that takes place every November and is believed to have originally started at Ootori Shrine in Asakusa. Takarabune-kumade, or Treasure ship rake, is a harbinger of good luck, coming from a belief that rakes gather up good luck and prosperity, and they are available only at the Tori Fair of Ootori Shrine. The Takarabune rakes are currently made only in Yoshida store in Asakusa. The size of the rakes varies from 6cm to 3.4m. The store starts making the rakes immediately after the fair, taking a whole year to prepare for the following years event.
At first, paper is cut using a pattern, then lines are drawn followed by coloring. After the faces of Shichifukujin or the Seven Deities of Good Fortune, are drawn, they are inserted into the treasure ship with other decorations and finely balanced to finish. Drawing faces with their unique looks for the seven deities is the most difficult part. This hand drawing technique has been passed down for years since the Edo period. It is now practiced by Keiko Yoshida, head of Yoshida store, and her daughter, Kyoko.
Takarabune-kumade has brightly colored decorations of the seven deities, treasures and a sea bream. Although it is a rake with the tip of a straw festoon arranged to look more like a bow of a ship, it is created to have the look of a treasure ship. The rake, with its dominant red color, is referred to as a “red type” amulet. Takarabune-kumade is one of the most popular good luck charms in the Tori Fair of Ootori Shrine.
Hakota dolls are traditional papier-mache dolls with a history of 300 years. They are made in Kurayoshi, Tottori Prefecture. Such a limbless cylindrical type of papier-mache doll, similar to a kokeshi doll, is rare in this country, and it is made only in Kurayoshi in the Sannin area.
Hakota doll-making started sometime between 1781 and 1789 (Tenmei period). A peddlar from Bingo (today's Hiroshima Prefecture), whose name was Bingoya Jihei, created the first Hakota doll. He made it because he was moved by the naivety of the girls he met in this area.
Until the early Showa period, these dolls were called 'Ha-ko-san', and were a familiar toy for little girls. Also, these dolls were made as bringers of good luck; a prayer for a child to grow up free from injury and illness.
You can make and decorate your own Hakota doll at Bingoya (the 6th), which continues to this day. What will your 'Ha-ko-san' look like?
Saru Mawashi in Japanese means 'monkey show' and is a street performance using a monkey.
The history of Saru Mawashi in Japan is long and dates back to its introduction from India via China. A monkey was supposed to be a guardian of a horse, which was important for samurai. Monkeys were kept in a stable and a monkey showman served generals.
'Monkey' is pronounced 'saru', which means 'leave' in Japanese. So, a monkey was believed to be able to remove your misfortune which is why they performed on New Year or at festivals all over Japan.
There are many different kinds of monkey performances because monkeys can imitate human actions like 'folding your legs under yourself', 'standing at attention' and 'reflection'. Monkeys can also do tightrope walking, pass through a ring and walk on stilts.
In 1963, the monkey show died out when the last monkey showman retired. But in 1977, the Suo Monkey Showa Association was revived and they continue to spread the show as an Intangible Folk Cultural Asset in Hikari, Yamaguchi Prefecture.
Hitokotonushi Shrine is located on Mt Katsuragi in Gose, Nara Prefecture. The real name of the shrine is Katsuragi Niimasu Hitokotonushi Shrine. The god Hitokotonushi is enshrined here.
There is a legend that when an emperor climbed Mt Katsuragi, Hitokotonushi appeared and preached to the emperor. The emperor then offered items such as weapons and clothing to the god. The local people call the god Hitokoto-san because it is believed that the god can grant their wishes.
Within the shrine precincts stands a large gingko tree called Nyu-Gingko, which is some 1200 years old. There is a legend that this gingko brings good luck to children. It is also said it can improve a woman's milk.
The Shishi-mai dance, which was imported from China, spread throughout Japan and has many variations depending on the area.
The shishi (lion) dances to lively music. It is said that there are two kinds of shishi-mai dance: one, unlike its Chinese counterpart, is the 'furyu' shishi-mai, which can only house a single performer instead of a line of men.
In Japan, there are many styles of shishi-mai, with no two styles resembling each other, including several different versions of the 'furyu' and 'kagura' dances.
The head of most shishi is made of wood, but some are made of rice paper or styrofoam. The old Chinese version of the dance originated long ago, while the current version originated in the Qing dynasty to become a competitive sport.
Shishi-mai is performed during every kind of event, including Chinese New Year and the opening ceremonies of new shops. Shishi-mai teams exist in every town.
Ishikiri Shrine is located in Higashi-Ishikiri town, Higashi-Osaka district, Osaka. Officially, it is called Ishikiri Tsurugiya Jinja, of which Ishikiri jinja is an abbreviation.
The shrine is well known to Osaka citizens as Ishikiri-san or 'denbo no kamisan (god of curing lumps)'. The belief that the shrine could 'cure lumps' spread in the Showa period.
The name Ishikiri derives from the sword and arrow that is honored in the shrine. It is believed that the sword and arrow could cut and penetrate anything – even robust rocks. This probably explains why the shrine gained the reputation that its sharp weapons could cut and cure bumps and lumps, too.
According to the temple biography, Ishikiri Shrine was established by Miyayama-no-Kaminosha in 658. It is also known as the place for 'oyakudo-mairi' (visiting the shrine 100 times brings luck) and people continuously visit the temple.
Omamori is a kind of amulet offered by shrines. 'Shinsatsu', another kind of amulet, comes with a small pouch that holds a sacred object called 'goshinji' inside it.
People carry omamori with them as an assurance that their wish will come true or as protection from misfortune. Shinsatsu are mainly used for family prayers, while omamori are more often used for individual prayer.
Because omamori are for one particular year only, they lose their power at the end of the year. In the New Year, they may assume a different spiritual power, so old omamori are purified to remove their souls and burnt at this time.
There are omamori for many purposes like safe driving, safe delivery, good luck in studies and exams, happiness in marriage, as well as strange ones, such as protection for pets or IT equipment.
Tamaseseri is a festival held in Fukuoka city's Higashi ward. Every year on January 3, groups of men compete over large balls called houju. Out of the two wooden ying and yang balls, the yang one (with a diameter of 28cm and a weight of 8kg) is said to have lucky powers. Once the yang ball is held above a person's head, he will be destined to have success in everything. A total of 250 men fight over the balls after dousing themselves in cold water.
There are many theories concerning the origin of the balls. Although it is not certain, one theory states that the idea came from the 'manjusenju' balls offered to the dragon god during the battle of the shinkou-kougou-sankan. All legends agree that both balls were dedicated to the Hakozakigu shrine because, without the ying ball, the yang ball would make sounds while glowing and queer things would happen. For 500 years, the Tamaseri has been a strangely masculine but gallant festival and a grand sight to see.