Shiofune Kannon Temple located in Shiofune, Ome City, Tokyo, is a Bekkaku-Honzan (the special headquarters) of the Daigo school of the Shingon sect. The main object of worship is Juichimen Senju Sengan Kanjizai Bosatsu (Bosatsu with 11 faces, 1,000 arms and 1,000 eyes). It is the 72nd of the Kanto 88 Holy Sites.
It is said that the temple was founded during the Taika era (645-650), when Yaobikuni, a legendary character who had eaten the flesh of mermaids to get immortality at age 17 and later became a nun, dropped in at this village and placed the Kannon statue here.
At the annual festival held on May 3 every year, the Saito Goma Fire ritual is performed. Torches are thrown into the huge goma stage set up in the center of the open space in the precinct, where a dozens of yamabushi (mountain practitioners) stand in a circle, chanting Shingon prayers to invite the main object of worship into the fire and pray for attainment of people’s wishes. Then the Hiwatari ritual is performed, in which some of the yamabushi with a sward in their hand run through the burning fire one after another, yelling with vigor. This is a very gallant and solemn religious event.
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.
Abeno Seimei is a legendary figure known as the master of Onmyoudou, a traditional esoteric cosmology based on Chinese Five Elements and Yin and Yang. His portrait appeared in Konjyaku Monogatari (stories, modern and ancient) in Heian Period and Ujishuui Monogatari in Kamakura Period. His legendary stories have also been passed down in a number of Kabuki and Bungaku plays.
Much of his birth and life remain a mystery. It is said that since childhood he had the power to see mysterious phenomena. Later he studied under Kamono Tadayuki, a master of Yin and Yang philosophy, and voraciously absorbed knowledge of astrology, the calendar and divination. It is said he was able to manipulate the soul, metamorphosing freely, called “Shikigami”, cure the sick and was even able to master the power to bring rain. Above all, his characteristics are said to come from his ability to read space-time and decipher secrets of the calendar. He wrote some guide books including “Senji-ryakketsu”, which theorize the relationship between Chinese Five Elements and divination.
Seimei lived until he was 85 years old which was quite rare at that time. After his death, his descendants became known as Tsuchimikado Clan and retained the political power behind the history. Even today, Abe Seimei fascinates people and Abe Seimei Shrine in Kyoto, a shrine dedicated to him, attracts many visitors.
Terashita Kannon is a temple located in Akabonai, Hashikami-cho, Sannohe-gun, Aomori Prefecture. The principal object of worship is Sho Kannon. It was founded in the Kamakura period (1192-1333) as the 1st Holy Place of 33 Kannon Pilgrimage in Oshu Nukabe.
In the Kannon Hall surrounded with dense forest of cedar trees, a statue of Kannon, 65 cm tall, which is said to have been carved out from Japanese judas wood by a high priest Gyoki in 724.
It is believed that if you worship 33 Kannon statues of this temple, you will receive the same benefit as you visit 33 Kannon Holy Places in Kinki. As the idea of Shinbutsu Shugo (fusion of Shinto and Buddhism) has been practiced in this area, Ushioyama Shrine is located in the precinct. Today it is visited by a lot of pilgrims, who quietly offer prayers in the precinct.
The waterfall in back of the main hall was the training ashram for mountain practitioners in the old days. Local people have come to worship and take this water as the miracle water to give perpetual youth and longevity. It was selected as the prefecture’s fine water by the governor in 1989.
Shoujou Noh Mask, used in the Noh play called “Shoujou”, represents a legendary creature in China. The mask has a reddish complexion illustrating that he is drunk. His smiling face with his eyes slanting downwards has the bewitching expression of an goblin. It is a unique mask in the Noh plays because comic elements are quite rare.
In the play, a man named Koufuu, who was a dutiful son and was living in Kinzan, had a dream in which he had a premonition that he was going to be wealthy. Following the premonition, he opened a liquor store, which became prosperous. The store had a strange customer who visited everyday and whose face did not change color no matter how much he drank. When Koufuu asked the customer who he was, he revealed he was Shoujou, a goblin who lived in a sea in China and loved drinking. After he left, Koufuu, who was stunned to know his identity, prepared bottles of sake to present to the elf and waited for him by the river. Shoujou came back and they drank together filling each other’s cup. After that, Shoujou gave Koufuu a special sake which ensures long life and never runs out no matter how much is consumed. It’s a celebratory play.
Although Okina Noh mask is one of the most significant masks in Noh plays, it actually existed before the formation of Noh play.
It is thought to originate from Kagura Dance which became popular in Yamato era and was performed by a head of the local clan at an occasion of cerebration. Okina mask was regarded as a mask of a god and considered sacred.
During the Heian and Kamakura periods when Noh was still known Sarugaku-noh, the play performed by Sarugaku troupes was called “Okina Sarugaku”. The play took the shikisanba form in which celebration dances by three Okina characters: Okina, Sanba Sarugaku and Chichii, were performed. This style became the base of today’s Okina Noh play.
Okina mask, also known as Hakushikijou, has a distinctive ancient look that is not seen in other Noh masks. The mask has raggedy eye brows as if balls of cotton were attached, a happy smile with letter “へ” shaped eyes and the detached chin style called Kiriago. This sacred elderly mask is believed to be a god who brings peace, rich harvests, family prosperity and longevity.
Enmei Kaja is a kind of the Okina (a holy old man) masks. It expresses a rich laughter with like other Okina masks but has no separate jaw part. It looks more like a male mask with young impression created by thinly drawn beard and big dimples.
As “Enmei” means “to prolong life” and “Kaja” means “an adult male,” Enmei Kaja is a man with a virtue of prolonging life. This mask is used for tsure (the companion of shite) in “Junitsuki Orai” scene of the play “Okina,” while the Chichi-no-jo mask is used for shite (the main role). The role with this mask is considered as a son of Chichi-no-jo. Enmei Kaja is sometimes used for shite in the play “Sagi.”
Like other Okina masks, it has the remnant of the Heian and Kamakura periods, when Noh had not yet been established in the present form. Enmei Kaja is a mask with people’s prayer for long life and family ever-lasting prosperity.
The old Shimizudera Temple is located beside Hodai Temple. It is located on the Fudarakusan mountain and it belongs to the Soto sect of Buddhism. It is also called Shimizu Kannon Temple. Its principal image is the Jyuichimen Sente Kannon.
The nearby water that gushes down the mountain is counted as one of the 'top 15 waters of Toyo no Kuni'. It is said that the water quality has never changed since the Heian period. Even today it moistens the arable lands below. The water is reputed to have the 'power to confer immortality'. It is also known to be good for stomach complaints and diabetes.
The Shimizudera Temple is located in front of a forest of Castanopsis trees. In fact, just viewing the forest gives the sense that one's life may become longer.