Sokutai is the full official dress worn by emperors, aristocrats and courtiers since the Heian Period (794). It is also called Hino-shouzoku.
The word Sokutai, was originally found in the Analects of Confucius, where it meant layered clothes tied with an obi belt and it indicated a full set of dress.
Sokutai consist of a crown, hitoe clothes worn over underwear followed by akome and shitagasane clothes with a long sash called kyo hanging in the back. Crimson under pants and baggy outer trousers are then added and finally, an outer robe called hou, which is tied with a leather belt containing stone decorations called sekitai.
Sokutai, based on the court uniforms worn by the government officials under the ritsuryo codes, became the full official dress of the Imperial Court. Those who were among military officers, civil officials in Nakatsukasasho who oversaw imperial affairs and aristocrats who held the sangi position or higher and who were granted Imperial permission were allowed to wear a sword. As time passed, sokutai has become more ceremonial, only being worn in special occasions.
There are two kind of the hou outer robe: houeki which the civil officials wore and ketteki which allowed more free movement and was worn by military officials.
Sokutai is traditional and elegant full official wear for the emperor as well as aristocratic and government officials.
Sangasho Shrine located in Gokase-cho in the northwest part of Miyazaki Pref. in central Kyushu is a shrine famous for seasonal flowers. The shrine originates in the hokora (small shrine) at the top of Mt. Futagami, which is believed to be the place of Tenson Korin (the Sun goddess’ descent to earth). Later during the Shotai era (898-901) the hokora was moved to the foot of the mountain and Sangasho Shrine was founded. It enshrines the deities of Izanagi and Izanami. The shrine was rebuilt in 1571. The present Honden (main hall) built in 1817 is made of one zelkova tree and the excellent Nagare-zukuri style is employed there. Exquisite wood carvings by master craftsmen of the time are especially beautiful. From the middle of April through the end of May, when the annual spring is festival is held, 12,000 stocks of alpine roses burst out in the precinct. Camellia and weeping cherry blossoms are also splendid when they are in full bloom. The gallant Araodori Dance by male dancers in warrior costume is a nationally designated Important Intangible Cultural Property. It is dedicated to the deities of this shrine on the last Saturday of September every year.
Kebesu Festival is a fire festival held at Iwakura Hachiman Shrine in Kunimi-machi, Kunisaki City, Oita Pref. on October 14. The origin of the word “kebesu” is not clear; some say it comes from a phrase in a norito (Shinto prayer) referring to “a boy who kicks fire.” On the festival night, the “Kebesu,” who is wearing a grotesque mask, walks around the precinct, hitting the stick called “Samasuta” with a fan and dashes toward the holy bonfire. Then some men called “Toba” in white costume try to guard the fire and repeatedly fight with Kebesu for fire. Toba run after the spectators with burning fern in their hands. It is said that if the sparks fall on you, you will be good in health throughout the year. The festival is designated as a prefecture’s Intangible Folk Cultural Property. This is one of the few unique festivals in Japan.
The deer dance and the sword dance are traditional folk performing arts handed down in Izumi-ku, Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture. The sword dance was introduced to this area in 1649 and the deer dance in 1792. The two dances have been handed down as one set of performing art.
Originally, both of the dances were performed to pray for the repose of ancestors’ souls, but later the deer dance has come to be danced for prevention of natural disasters and a rich harvest and the sword dance for driving away evils and bringing peace and stability to their land.
Several features of the old Shugendo religious style can be found in costumes, ohayashi music, dancing, chanting and movements of these dances. It is said that many of the similar dances spreading in the southern part of Iwate Prefecture and the northern part of Miyagi Prefecture have their origins in these dances. A lot of same features can be also seen in the deer dance handed down in Uwajima City in Ehime Prefecture, which was introduced by Date Hidemune, who was transferred to the Uwajima domain in 1615.
Takisanji Temple in Okazaki City, Aichi Prefecture, is a temple of the Tendai sect of Buddhism. The principal object of worship is Sho Kannon. Oni Matsuri (Ogre Festival) is held to pray for peaceful life and a good harvest in the coming year. It is held on the Saturday closest to February 7th as this is the New Year in the old Lunar Calendar. The festival is famous in the Mikawa region as a traditional religious ceremony to greet the beginning of spring.
It originates in the prayer service performed for Minamoto no Yoritomo in the Kamakura period (1192-1333). The festival was discontinued for some time and revived as an official event of the Tokugawa Shogunate in the era ruled by the 3rd Shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu in the early Edo period (1603-1868).
The highlight of the festival is a valiant fire ceremony, in which the demons are being chased away with fire and noise. The men in white clothes are chasing the demons around the main hall while hitting the burning torches hard against the balustrades of the decks. The big bamboo torch placed in the center of the precinct bursts with big noises and fire sparks are falling like powder snow. The fire on the big torch is flaming up as if it is going to burn the main hall. The dance performed by the demons is very gallant. After the ceremony, people pick up the burned-out bamboo branches and bring them home as a talisman to get rid of ill-luck.
The annual festival of Chunobori Shrine is held on the last Sunday of September every year. Chunobori Shrine in Gokase Town, Miyazaki Prefecture, was originally founded at the top of Mt. Chunobori. It was integrated into Sankasho Shrine in the town in the late Meiji period (1868-1912) and was separated again and relocated to the present place in the later years.
The main dedication, the Araodori dance, is first performed at the annual festival of Sankasho Shrine held on the previous day and then at Chunobori Shrine on Sunday. The dancers in warrior costumes and carrying spears, bows and arrows, or guns dance valiantly in line and quietly in circle. It is said that the dance was introduced from Enozan Senkoji Temple in the town during the Tensho era (1573-1592) and has been handed down at these shrines for 400 years. It is designated as an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property by the national government.
Sangasho Shrine Annual Festival is held at Sangasho Shrine in Gokase-cho, Miyazaki Pref. This historic shrine was founded in the Shotai era (898-901). The main hall is all made of zelkova tree and the excellent Nagare-zukuri style is employed there. It enshrines the deities of Izanagi and Izanami. The annual festival is held on the last Saturday of September every year. The Araodori Dance performed in the precinct by men in warrior costume is a traditional performing art with a history of 400 years. The dance is composed of the two parts; the gallant dance in line and the elegant one in circle. Together with the annual festival at Chunobori Shrine on the next day, the two festivals are the most famous festivals in Gokase-cho.
Flower Festival at Shiogama Shrine in Shiogama City, Miyagi Prefecture, is an annual festival of the shrine held on the 4th Sunday of April every year. As the festival is held during the cherry blooming season in the Tohoku region, it began to be called “Flower Festival.”
The origin of the festival dates back to the Anei era (1772-1780), when a severe flood attacked the region and farmers suffered from a bad harvest. It is said that when the villagers offered a prayer to the deity at Shiogama Shrine for a good harvest, they had good weathers and a rich harvest in the next year. To express their appreciation, they held a festival and the mikoshi (portable shrine) parade in 1788.
On the festival day, 16 shrine laymen called “Yocho” in white costume carry the mikoshi and walk through the city. During the procession, the carriers do not utter a single word and just walk in a solemn manner exposed to quiet Gagaku music (Japanese court music) and flattering cherry petals.
The travel of deity has been handed down to the modern generations for over 200 years without impairing its magnificence.