If you are in Tokyo over the Silver Week you might as well live up the last day of the holidays by visiting the great Hatsudai Awaodori Festival in Shibuya’s Hatsudai district, the first day was today but the second is coming up tomorrow (or today, depending on the time zone where you are reading this) the 23rd. Great fun for the entire family and lost of chances to eat, drink, and see the easily most festive of all Japanese traditional dances!
Here are some photos of the home team – the famous Hatsudairen (初台連) performing at last year’s festival. I hope this year’s second day is not as rainy!
The big Shibuya festival has started, which means that most (all?) shrines in Shibuya will be pooling their resources and manpower to create one huge festival in the center of town. The main even is on the Sunday but there will be plenty of performances, omikoshi, traditional stage plays and music all over the Shibuya area starting… last week. If you are in town and want to see a little bit of a modern traditional festival, I recommend coming down to Shibuya!
The end of August is the big weekend for Awaodori enthusiast as it is when the biggest annual festival outside of Tokushima Prefecture takes place. This year was just as massive as usual with huge crowds and tens of thousands of dancers, drummers, flutists etc. I was at my usual spot, selected for the little bend in the road which means that if I am very lucky and get a clear line it looks like the dancers are coming right at me. Which they are, until they turn to follow the road. Here are some photos of just a few of the participating teams: Hisagoren (ひさご連), Tsutsujiren (つつじ連), Tamakiren (たまき連) and Ochjaren (おぢや連).
The Lotus Sutra (or 妙法蓮華経 in Japanese, full name being Sutra on the White Lotus of the Sublime Dharma) is one of the most popular sutras of the largest branch of buddhism, Mahayana. A Sutra is basically a canonical text on the teachings of buddhism and in Mahayana buddhism there are about one hundred of them written in Sanskrit, Chinese or Tibetan. The Lotus Sutra is the main sutra of the Nichiren school of buddhism to which the famous Taishakuten in Tokyo’s Katsushika Ward belongs. It was written within a hundred years before or after Year 1 A.D.
One of the great carved panels in the Taishakuten contains a scene taken from the Lotus Sutra’s third chapter, the Parable of the Burning House. It is the story of a wealthy man who is blessed with many children. One days on his way home he finds his children completely concentrated on playing games inside the house even though it has caught fire and threatens to burn down with the children stuck inside. Despite all his cries the children ignore him until he comes up with a clever idea: he calls out to the children that they should come out and have a look at the fun new cars he has brought them; pulled by a deer, a goat, and a bullock! The promise of these novel and unusual draught animals lure the children out of the house and to the safety of their fathers arms. But instead of giving him the novel carts to play with he has prepared on much better cart, gilded, draped in jewelry and pulled by two great white bullocks.
The parable is of course an illustration of the world (a house on fire), the clueless children being humanity and the three carts being examples of how the Buddha offers many neat and clever ways to reach enlightenment but that in the end they all lead to one big common, and much better path, the path to Nirvana. Buddha is like a kind father offering his children shinier toys to make them leave their old fun, but useless toys behind.
Of all the ten different boards of carvings, this one was my favorite. Both the details like the animals and the children, but also how the flames and smoke is rendered in carved wood! The carver who made this was one Master Kijima Koun.