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Shinwa

Cultural Quintessence

Japan In-depth

Kateigaho International Edition

Shinwa
Myths and legends

Japan's long and exceedingly rich history is replete with shinwa, myths and legends. Told and retold from generation to generation, they depict the endeavors and exploits of heroes, heroines and supernatural beings, or comprise the explanations of phenomena which helped the ancients to understand their world. Still recalled and revered, these old tales are often celebrated today in festival form.

Nachi-no Hi Matsuri

A dozen torches, their flames purifying the surroundings and their sparks blessing whomever they touch, are carried in boisterous procession down the stone steps to the ceremonial site at Kumano Nachi Taisha shrine.

Saikusa Matsuri

Ko-no-mono Sai

Torigoe Yo Matsuri

Nachi-no Hi Matsuri

The deified waterfall at Kumano Nachi Taisha is the site of an annual fire festival which honors Emperor Jimmu who, according to legend, stopped here to pray before going on to conquer ancient Yamato. The twelve unique ogi mikoshi, each a tall fan-decorated standard in which a deity temporarily resides during the celebration, represent the sacred waterfall, which at 130 meters is the highest in Japan. Shrine priests convey offerings to an altar set among them near the foot of the falls.

Nachi-no Hi Matsuri
Dates:July 14
Place: Kumano Nachi Taisha and Nachi waterfall, Nachisan, Nachi Katsuuracho, Wakayama
Tel. 0735-55-0321 (Kumano Nachi Taisha)

Saikusa Matsuri

Wild lilies, yuri, once grew in abundance on sacred Mt. Miwa. There among them lived and played Princess Isuzu, and it is said that Japan's legendary first emperor Jimmu, great-great grandson of the sun goddess, once visited her on the mountainside in lily season. When she died, her spirit was there enshrined, and during Saikusa-no Matsuri, often simply called Yuri Matsuri, offerings of lilies are presented to her spirit, both in dance and as adornment for the cask of sacred sake.

Saikusa Matsuri
Dates: June 17
Place: Isakawa Jinja, Honkomori-cho,Nara-shi Nara
Tel.0744-42-6633 (Oomiwa Jinja)

Ko-no-mono Sai

Long ago, in gratitude for nature's bounty, villagers here placed vegetables and sea salt together in offering to the field god. It was discovered, after a time, that they had been transformed, and people gathered around to taste these strange "fragrant things" this gift from the gods. This is the origin of Japan's tsukemono, pickled vegetables. When Yamato Takeru, a legendary hero credited with extending the frontiers of Yamato, stopped here to rest and pray, villagers gave him some as a charm against all illnesses.

Ko-no-mono Sai
Dates:August 21
Place: Kayazu Jinja, Jimokuji-cho, Amagun,Aichi
Tel. 052-444-3019 (Kayazu Jinja)

Torigoe Yo Matsuri

Warrior Yamato Takeru, enshrined and worshiped at Torigoe Shrine, is honored with an authentic "downtown" festival which draws huge crowds. The so-called obake (monster) mikoshi, said to be the heaviest in Tokyo at four tons, is paraded through parish streets by hundreds of happi-clad bearers to entertain and honor the deity within and ask for his favor. The parade carries on throughout the day, and then in the evening returns to the shrine by atmospheric lanternlight.

Torigoe Yo Matsuri
Place: Torigoe Jinja,2-4-1 Torogoe, and other locales in Taito-ku,Tokyo
Tel. 03-3854-5033 (General Affairs Office of Torigoe Shrine)



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