In common with 婦, the basic character of 掃 is 帚. The 扌 hand classifier was only added considerably later. The first form in the tortoise plastron and bone characters is extremely simple; it clearly is just the form of a 箒 ‘hôki: broom.’ As the tortoise plastron and bone characters were created by a group of ancient clerics the cleaning this character originally refers to should be imagined as a sacred act or duty. It was humbly conducted in the mausoleum for worshiping the ancestors. Besides using the broom for sweeping as is done in the present, it was established etiquette to sprinkle well-smelling liquor with the broom for exorcising and purifying the mausoleum. It may be compared to the present burning of incense for the ancestors.
The upper part of the unabbreviated character 帚 shows a hand, and the middle line extending to the right shows the part of the hand including the joint which is especially important when sweeping. In the shortened character form of the Common Use Character, however, nearly only the fingers remain. 帚 also appears in 歸, the older character of 帰 ‘kaeru: return.’ It shows military returning from war at the ritual of reporting at the mausoleum bringing worship meat. At this time, there also was the custom of exorcising and purifying the mausoleum with a broom and liquor.
Nishinomiya Shrine stands in the middle of Nishinomiya City, Hyogo Prefecture, in the part of the city known to produce one of the highest-quality sake brands - Nadagogou. Nishinomiya Shrine is the head Ebisu shrine that presides over more than 3,500 Ebisu shrines. It is also commonly known as “Nishinomiya no Ebe-ssan”.
It is not known when the shrine was first founded, however, it appeared in a document from 1172, suggesting it already existed at that time. It was during the Muromachi Period, when the Seven Lucky Gods became widely popular and songs and plays related to them were broadly shown nationally. At that time, Ebisu, who was a deity of wealth and one of the Seven Lucky Gods, came to be known and worshiped all over the country. The Ebisu dance performed in front of the Nishinomiya Shrine is said to be the foundation of the Oosaka Bunraku and Awaji Puppet Theaters.
The Toyotomi Family and the Tokugawa Family, the subsequent leaders of Japan, also embraced and protected the shrine and Ebisu worship and, as local commerce developed, Ebisu became deeply rooted and honored as the deity of prosperity in business.
The shrine was destroyed by fire during the Second World War and restored fully in 1961. The Ooneribei wall, built during the Muromachi Period and the Omote Daimon gate in the Momoyama architectural style are designated as National Important Cultural Assets.
For three days at the beginning of each year, from January 9th through 11th, a big festival called “Touka Ebisu” is held and the shrine becomes filled with more than 1 million visitors.
The Tsurusaki Odori (Dance) Festival is held for two days in August in the town of Tsurusaki in Oita City, Oita Prefecture. During the festival period, 2,000 dancers perform elegant and gorgeous dances. It is designated as a national Intangible Folk Cultural Property.
The Tsurusaki Odori is said to have originated in the Eiroku era (1558-1569), when Otomo Sorin, the lord of Bungo province (present-day Oita Prefecture) addicted himself to wine at the expense of his responsibilities to his people. His chief retainer, Tobe Akitsura tried to dissuade him from his misconduct and hit upon the idea of inviting some of the beautiful dancers from Kyoto to perform before their lord. Lord Otomo was so impressed by the purity and delicacy of their dancing that he mended his ways completely.
Today, dancing teams in matching costumes with elaborate designs perform dances, making manifold circles. There are two versions of Tsurusaki Odori; “Sarumaru-Dayu” is a gracious slow tempo dance, while “Saemon” is a light, up-tempo dance. Their elegant and flamboyant actions together with the chanting and the music of Japanese flute and Chinese fiddle fascinate the spectators.
A Choko is a small ceramic cup used for drinking sake or as a dipping sauce container for soba noodles.
There are theories as to where the name “choko” came from. One of them says that the word was derived from “choku”, a small dish used in a ceremonial table setting during the Edo period. Another legend says that choko, which is written “boar’s mouth” in Chinese characters, was named after a boar’s snout, which is wide on top and narrow on the bottom.
When warming up sake, people are advised to consider what the temperature of it will be after it is poured into the choko. For example, when sake is heated up in a Tokkuri sake flask to 40°C, the sake, after being poured into the choko will be around 35°C, or approximately body temperature. It is then called “hitohada-kan (body warm sake)”. There are other elegant names to describe sake temperatures such as hinata-kan (sun warm sake), ryou-bie (cool sake) and hana-bie (flower cool sake).
Soba-choko, which is mainly used as a dipping sauce container for soba noodles, has many different patterns such as the ishigaki (stone wall) pattern and the karakusa (arabesque) pattern. Soba-choko is also used for a variety of other purposes.
Hadaka Kasedori is the traditional New Year’s event handed down in the Kirigome area in Kami Town, Miyagi Prefecture. It is held on the night of January 15 every year in hope of fire prevention and getting rid of bad luck. It is prefecturally designated as an intangible folk cultural property.
This is a very unique festival, in which half-naked men with “Hebiso (soot from the Japanese traditional kitchen range)” on the faces visit each of the houses in the village. They are treated with sake and meals, while applying Hebiso on the faces of the family members.
This custom is said to be a kind of rite of passage in that boys over 15 years old undergo physical hardship. New participants, newly married men and men with unlucky ages must wear straw hats and Shimenawa (sacred rice-straw ropes) over their loincloths; and then they stand in front of each houses and are poured cold water all over their bodies.
Waterfall purification is performed on January 15 every year at Kozo Fudo Sui Shrine in Ichihasama Nagasaki in Kurihara City, Miyagi Prefecture. The men who have reached their Yaku-doshi (the unlucky ages) and who have attained adulthood participate in the purification.
At around 7:00 in the evening, the men wearing loincloths, straw sandals and headbands march into the precinct of the shrine, carrying the Mikoshi made of straw rice bags. After they offer a prayer for their safety during the purification ritual, they run to the Kozo-Fudo Waterfall and jump into the basin with renewed vigor.
Although the air temperature around the waterfall is about 8 degrees below zero, they stand under the waterfall with a height of 10 m and then soak in the cold water. Their skin turn crimson in no time but they continue offering a prayer for family safety, good health, expelling bad luck, a rich harvest or success in entrance examinations.
When they come out of water, they return to the shrine to report that the purification is over without any accident. Greeted by spectators’ cheers and applause, they take a rest around a bonfire and drink hot Amazake (sweet sake-wine). The ritual has received a favorable comment from the participants that they can feel refreshed when their body and soul are purified.
Yagumo Honjin is the former residence of the Kowata family, which was one of the wealthiest land owner families in Izumo province (present-day Shimane Prefecture). Carrying on a brewing industry, the family also served as O-Shoya (the officer that ruled Shoya of each village).
This grand building with a floor area of 2,640 m2 standing on 3,940 m2 land was constructed in 1733. In the Edo period, the residence was used as honjin (an inn for the nobility and daimyo), where the lord of the Matsue domain stayed when he made an inspection tour around the domain territory.
After World War II, the residence was open to public as a Japanese restaurant and inn, where guests can enjoy its gorgeous interior furnishings. Yagumo Honjin was nationally designated as an Important Cultural Property in 1969.
Otoso is Sake with added medicinal herbs to be drunk on New Years Day to ward off sickness for the entire year ahead and to wish for long happy life. As an old saying goes; “When one person drinks it, none of his family falls sick. When one family drinks it, none of the people in a whole village falls sick”, Otoso was initially made and taken in order to protect oneself from the cold. It later became an essential drink to celebrate the New Year.
First, toso mixture is prepared by mixing several herbs including Sanshou (Japanese pepper), Kikyou (balloonflower) and Heihi (cassis bark). Then the toso mixture is steeped with sake and mirin (sweetened sake). Otoso is drunk using a special set of three different sizes of sake cups: small, medium and large. It is customary for the younger people to drink it before the elders, though this varies by region. This custom originated in China where younger people would test it first for poison. Starting from the end of Meiji Period to the beginning of Showa Period, in some regions, the head of the family was the first to drink the Otoso which then became the custom.