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2008/9/1


春日町 おまんと Kasuga-chou Omanto Omanto Festival at Kasuga-cho

Jp En


Omanto at Kasuga Town is a festival held at the Kasuga and Yatsurugi Shrines in Kasuga-cho, Aichi Prefecture, on the first weekend each October.
Its origin is not known, but it is believed that the festival started in the beginning of 1800, when horses were dedicated to the Kasuga and Yatsurugi Shrines to pray for rain.  The festival is said to be the biggest in the Nishi-mikawa region.
In the festival, young men wearing happi festival coats and jikatabi rubber-soled socks enter a riding arena of about 100 meters in circumference and start running toward horses that have been decorated with bells and flowers. They grab the horses’ muzzles and run around the arena at a fast speed.
In precincts of the Omanto Shrine there is a rounded square preserved solely for this festival. On the day of the event, 40 ~ 50 horses are gathered from seven neighboring towns and released in the square. All participants running with horses become as if they were one with the horse, and a powerful and exciting scene unfolds in front of a big crowd of spectators.

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2008/8/15


やんさんま祭り Yansanma-matsuri Yansanma Festival

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Yansanma Festival is a big Spring festival that takes place at the Shimomurakamo Shrine in Imizu City, Toyama Prefecture. The festival lasts over 4 hours, starting with Soume-no-gi (Horse Riding), and followed by other ceremonies including Shinkou-shiki, Gyujyou-shiki (cow riding), shishi lion dance and yabusame (horseback archery).
Throughout the festival horses and cows play important roles.  The Cow Riding ceremony is rare religious ritual that can be seen only at this festival.
In the Horse Riding ceremony, some riders run through the area on horses and the best horse is chosen and dedicated to the gods to pray for a rich harvest.
In the Cow Riding ceremony, a young man, wearing a red mask with a big nose, appears riding on a cow. He then shoots an arrow made with fresh bamboo towards the roof of the shrine.  This is done to pray for peace and a rich harvest in the region. The cow is regarded as an incarnation of the god of farming and it is believed to possess the power to protect people from fires and epidemics.  Participants in the ceremony, wishing to make the cow stay in the region, struggle to control the cow and make it kneel down on the ground.
The festival ends with the Horseback Archery ceremony in which a warrior, riding on a horse, shoots an arrow along the shrine’s path.
The Yansanma Festival is designated as an Intangible Folklore Cultural Asset by the Toyama Prefecture.
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2008/3/7


木ノ下駒 Kinoshita-goma Kinoshita-koma Wooden Horse Toys

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The Kinoshita-koma wooden horse toy is a traditional handicraft handed down in Kinoshita in Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture. Kinoshita-koma, along with Yawata-goma of Aomori Prefecture and Miharu-goma of Fukushima Prefecture, are known as the three best wooden horse toys of Japan.

The origin of the Kinoshita-koma wooden horse toy dates back to the Heian period (794-1192). The Tohoku region has traditionally been a horse-breeding area and horses were indispensable for military affairs and agriculture in the old days. It is said that the provincial governors of this region always dedicated horses to the Imperial court whenever Komahiki (the horse exhibition) was held at the Imperial palace. When a horse was dedicated, a horse-shaped wooden ornament was put on the harness around the neck. Later, people began to make wooden horses modeling after this ornament.

Thos wooden horses were sold at the festivals of Mutsu Kokubunji Temple or Hakusan Shrine as the talisman to protect horses and drive away evils. Gradually, they became a popular souvenir item for temple and shrine visitors and farmers began to make them during the agricultural off-season. Their cute figures attracted attention of travelers and they became known all over the country.
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2007/10/1


知立の松並木 Chiryu-no-matsu-namiki The Row of Pine trees in Chiryu

Jp En

The city of Chiryu in Aichi Prefecture was the 39th of 53 post stations on the Old Tokaido Road from 1601 to the end of the Edo period. In 1604, the Tokugawa Shogunate ordered to plant pine trees on both sides of the Tokaido Road except the zones in the settlements. The row of pine trees protected travelers from the sunlight in summer and cold wind and snow in winter.

Today, as many as 170 pine trees continuing about 500 meters remain in Chiryu City. Byways built on both sides of the row were used for resting horses that were brought to a horse market. The prosperity of the horse market can be inferred from the stone monument erected in the market ruins site to the south of the road and Ando Hiroshige’s “The Fifty-three Post Stations of the Tokaido Road; Chiryu.” The row of pine trees was designated as a city’s cultural property in 1969.
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