NIPPON Kichi - 日本吉

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箟岳白山祭 Nonodake-hakusan-sai Nonodake Hakusan Festival

Jp En

Mt. Nonodake in Wakuya Town in Miyagi Prefecture has been known as the holy mountain since the ancient times. Nonodake Hakusan Festival with a history of more than 1,000 years is performed gracefully with the traditional ritual at Konpoji Temple at the top of the mountain. The festival is continued for about 1 month from New Year’s Day to the end of January.

The most attractive event during the festival period is the Oyumi (the sacred archery) ritual performed on the 4th Sunday of January. After the prayer for a rich harvest is offered, the rice cake called “Oshitogiage” is dedicated to Hakusan Gongen. Then, assisted by the priests, two Chigo (young boy acolytes) wearing Eboshi hats and Hitatare garments shoot twelve arrows that represent twelve months of the year. This is an augury for the climate and harvest of the year. If an arrow hits the mark, they will have a good weather, and if an arrow misses the mark, they will have a strong wind. The archery augury by the cute boys gets a favorable reputation that it is accurate.
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天恩寺 Tenon-ji Tenonji Temple

Jp En

Tenonji Temple in Okazaki City, Aichi Prefecture, is a temple of the Myoshinji school of the Rinzai sect. The temple was founded by the Zen monk Kensho Goshin in 1362 by the order of the 3rd Shogun of the Muromachi Shogunate, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, on behalf of his grandfather, Ashikaga Takauji, who had made a vow before he died that he would construction a temple at this place in appreciation for the fulfillment of his prayer for victory.  

The stately main gate built in the Yakuimon style looks like a castle gate. The main hall is a Chinese-styled building with the large camber on the outer side of the roof. It is nationally designated as an Important Cultural Property. In front of the main hall is a Hojo-ike Pond (set living things free pond), which is typical to a Zen temple.

In the precinct stands a huge cedar tree named “Ieyasu-ko Mikaeri-no-sugi (the cedar tree that Ieyasu looked back at).” According to a legend, when Tokugawa Ieyasu visited this temple to pray for his victory, he heard someone calling his name. He turned around to see who it was, when an assassin was just going to launch an arrow at him from behind a huge cedar tree. It was Enmei Jizo Bosatsu (Life Lengthening Jizo) that called him and Ieyasu narrowly escaped from being shot. When he left the temple for a battle field, Ieyasu looked back at the cedar tree over and over again to show his gratitude to Jizo Bosatsu.
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那須野巻狩まつり Nasuno-makigari-matsuri Nasuno Makigari Hunt Festival

Jp En

Nasuno Makigari Hunt Festival is held for two days in October in Shiobara City, Tochigi Prefecture. It is a City’s annual festival pertaining to Minamoto no Yoritomo, who established the Kamakura Shogunate in 1192. The festival was first held in 1994 to honor the 800th anniversary of Yoritomo’s Nasuno Makigari Hunting. In 1193, Yoritomo performed a grand hunting called Nasuno Makigari to make a display of his power to all the provincial lords of the country. The Makigari hunting is a type of hunt consisting of a great number of hunters surrounding and driving animals to an area where they are then killed by a warrior hunter.

During the festival, the atmosphere of Yoritomo’s hunting is recreated by the dynamic performance of Kuroiso Makigari Daiko (Japanese drums) and the Makigari-nabe stew, which is served for as many as 2,500 visitors. With high-ranked warriors and princesses stand watching, gallant warriors and hunters in the samurai armors reenact exciting and realistic hunting.
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破魔矢 Hamaya Hamaya (Arrow)

Jp En

There is a custom in Japan in which people purchase or receive a hamaya (evil-repelling arrow) on a visit to a shrine for the first time (hatsumode) in the new year (oshogatsu). The arrow is a good luck charm for good fortune in the coming year. Sometimes the arrow comes in a set with a hamayayumi (evil-repelling bow).

The origins of the hamaya come from a ritual called 'jarai', a customary ceremony that took place at new year in the imperial courts to exhibit people's abilities with bow and arrow. The target used during this ritual was called 'hama', hence the names 'hamaya' ('the arrow that hits the target') and 'hamayumi' ('bow used for the target').

Originally, jarai only took place in imperial courts, but during the mid-Heian period, the word 'hama' ('ha' means 'destroy' and 'ma' means 'evil') changed its meaning. The ritual then became a custom at new year in which common people gave a toy bow and arrow to any family with a male child.

Other customs that developed include setting up a hamaya on a ridge in the direction of the 'demon gate' when building a new house, and sending hamaya and hamayumi to relatives and friends on the 'hatsu sekku' (first annual festival) of a newborn baby.
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"Nippon-kichi" leads you to places, people and things that reveal a certain Japanese aesthetic.

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