The character form has a left and a right side, which both, in the tortoise plastron and bone characters, were used with the meaning of the present complete character, of ‘army,’ or ‘master, instructor.’ The first form of 師 appearing in the tortoise plastron and bone characters is the left part of the character resembling the form of a big piece of meat fried on a skewer. It depicts the piece of meat the departing army uses to worship the ancestors when going to war praying for victory in war; by this time it alone had the meaning ‘army.’ The army always carried this meat around with it. The right part is the form of a knife with a blood stopper and a handle. Apart from the meaning ‘army,’ 師 was also used with the meaning of the person that has the authority to cut this meat. From the background that after retirement from active service these persons often were in charge of youth education, it also was used with the meaning ‘teacher.’
In contrast to ceremonies in Buddhism, the custom of offering meat afterwards was continued in Confucianism. In the realm of Confucianism, i.e. China, Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Japan, when worshipping the previous sages and teachers of ancient China as, for example, in the 釈奠 ‘Sekiten, (Shakuten, Sakuten): Big Ceremony of Confucius Worship’ this is an important element of the ritual. In Japan, for example, meat also is at the center of the worship rituals for Confucius at the ‘Yushima Seido: Yushima Confucius Shrine’ in Tokyo.
Besides, the character form of 帥 ‘Sui: general, leader’ may well seem to resemble 師, if, however, one has a look at the tortoise plastron and bone characters, the left part depicts the doors of a board enshrining deities, and the right part 巾 shows a cloth. It is of a completely different lineage.
Namahage Sedo Festival is held at Shinzan Shrine in Oga City, Akita Pref. in February every year. The festival is carried out as a tourist event that combines the Sedo Festival, which is the ceremony of the shrine, and Namahage, which is a folk festival. At Sedo Festival, a big rice cake is toasted on the Sedo fire in the precinct and dedicated to the god of Mt. Shinzan in the hope of rich harvest and safe navigation. At the same time, Shinto rites of Yudate Shinji (the offering of boiling water ) called Yuno-mai (boiling water dance) and Chinkama-sai festival (a ceremony of pouring the boiling water) are carried out to calm the rough sea. After that a group of Namahage, who were inspired souls at the shrine returns to the mountain, and then come down to the villages looking for evil children. There Namahage rampage about and show gallant dancing to the rhythms of Namahage-daiko drums and returns to the mountain again to complete the ritual rites. The ogres dancing wildly together with burning fire and fallen snow in the winter mountain make the fantastic scene.
Namahage is a folklore ritual held in the vicinity of Oga City, Akita Prefecture and takes place on New Years Eve every year.
Namahage appears wearing a demon mask, straw rain-cape, straw boots and holding a broad-bladed kitchen knife, wooden bucket and goheibo, a wooden stick to ward off evil spirits.
Namahage visits homes one at a time and asks “Are there any children crying? Is there a lazy wife here?” looking for lazy people in the houses. The head of a household treats the demon with the most hospitality. After being entertained, the demon heads to the next house.
The word, Namahage, is said to come from the way lazy people were punished by scraping off (hagasu) a minor burn (namomi) which is caused by lazing around the fire at home while others work outside in the harsh winter weather.
The Northeastern area of Japan has many different versions of the Namahage ritual and legends.
This folklore ritual, which has been passed down since ancient times, is to punish lazy people as well as to pray for good health and happiness for children.
Matsurokan is a museum of history and folk culture in Nabatake area in Karatsu City, Saga Pref. Japan’s oldest ruins of rice paddies were excavated in this area. “Matsuro” is the word used in Gishi-wajin-den to refer to Matsuro area in the suburbs of Karatsu City. The feature of the museum is its exterior appearance looking like a stilt storehouse in the Yayoi period. The museum houses various materials and documents concerning the beginning and spreading of rice farming. The diorama shows the restored pit dwellings of Nabatake community in the Yayoi period. Other excavated items such as stone knives, charred rice, agricultural tools, and whale bones are also displayed in the permanent collection room. “Harvest Festival” is held every October to give thanks for rice harvest.
Sojiji Temple in Ibaragi City, Osaka Pref. is a Shingonshu (a sect of Buddhism) temple, which was founded by Chunagon Fujiwara no Yamakage in the Heian period (794−1192). In Konjakumonogatari-shu (Tales of Times Now Past) and Genpei Seisui Ki (The rise and fall of Genji and Heike), an anecdote about the foundation of the temple is written. One day Yamakage’s father saved a turtle that was bullied by fishermen. The next day when Yamakage was drowning, the turtle came to save him in return. So Yamakage decide to build the temple to express his gratitude to Kannon (the goddess of mercy). It is Temple 22 of Saigoku 33 Pilgrim Route, along which pilgrims go around temples and worship Kannonkyo (a scripture honoring Kannon). The principal image of Senju-Sengan Kanzeon (the Thousand Armed and Thousand Eyed Kanzeon) is known as “Kannon on the turtle” and worshipped as the deity of child-raising and purification of the evil. Many other gods and deities are also worshipped at this temple including Yakushinyorai (the Healing Buddha), Jizoubosatsu (the guardian deity of children), Fudomyoou (God of Fire), Kobo-Daishi (Monk Kukai), and Inari Daimyojin (Fox Deity).
Sakai forged blades has the share of 90% in the market for cooking knives used by professional cooks. The No.1 standard of sharpness and traditional forging technique has increased their reputation. The history dates back the 16th century, when guns and tobacco were introduced into Japan from Portugal. In the late 16th century, Sakai’s “tobacco knives” to shred tobacco were known nationwide. The Tokugawa Shogunate granted Sakai a certificate seal called “Gokuin” to guarantee their quality and also the exclusive selling right, by which the reputation of Sakai forged blades spread all over the country. These knives are characterized by their distinctive sharpness that is only possible through the excellent smithing and grinding skills. The sharp blade edge produced by well trained skills represents the master’s pride.