NIPPON Kichi - 日本吉

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2007/7/25


おけら詣り Okera-mairi Okera-Mairi (New Year Visit to Okera)

Jp En

Okera-mairi is an annual event to celebrate the New Year at Yasaka Shrine in Kyoto. It begins on New Year's Eve and ends on the morning of New Year's Day.

The practise of Okera-mairi comes from the belief that, by bringing the holy fire of Yasaka home in the New Year and cooking a 'zoni' (vegetable soup with rice cakes in it) from that fire, one will have perfect health for the next year.

'Okera' is an asteraceous perennial, and its root was traditionally used as a gastrointestinal medicine in Chinese traditional medicine. It was also used as a charm to ward off evil spirits by feeding it into the flames. These beliefs and practices turned out to become today's Okera-mairi.

After the ceremony of the watch night on New Year's Eve, the holy fire is divided into five Okera lanterns by the hands of the Shinto priest. Each lantern comes with an 'Okera-gi', a piece of wood with a wish written on it. People bring the holy fire with the wishes back home by lighting a rope of twisted-bamboo.

The sight of the visitors returning home from Yasaka Shrine, spinning their rope to keep the fire alive is also a specialty of the Okera-mairi. Such a tradition today let's us see the continuation of ancient Japanese beliefs in the power of fire.
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2007/2/1


西円堂・追儺会 Saiendou・Tsuinae Saiendo Tsuinae Festival

Jp En

The Saiendo Shunie festival takes place in front of the Buddha image in the Saiendo Hall at Horyuji Temple in Nara. It is held from 1-3 February each year.

The final event held on the last day is called 'tsuinae' or 'onioi' and is the ogre-chasing ceremony. Two people dressed as Vaisravana and an ogre appear. Vaisravana holds a pikestaff and chases out the ogre, who holds a burning torch.

According to the 'Jiyô Nikki' ('Temple Records'), it is an event that began in 1261 and is the earliest ogre-chasing event of its kind in Nara Prefecture. It is believed that if a falling spark of fire hits a person, that person will be in sound health for that particular year. It is a festival attended by hundreds of people from the neighborhood.
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