Monday, April 26, 2010

Cherry Blossom Drive in Kanuma, Tochigi Prefecture

This is what happens when you give an old woman a video camera and a laptop preloaded with iMovie. - Another YouTube clip!

And this one almost destroyed our camcorder - the streets of Kanuma (Tochigi prefecture) might be wide, but they're definitely NOT smooth. Actually, Kanuma is an industrial town, and with the level of heavy duty truck traffic they have over there, the roads are not all that bad. They're only bad if you get this brilliant idea to set up a tripod inside your k-car and drive around filming cherry blossoms.

Kanuma is not really famous for cherry blossoms. Its claim to fame is the Kanuma Autumn Festival (our posts about it here and here) and Kanuma-tsuchi (鹿沼土) - a type of gardening soil, supposedly perfect for growing bonsai. Gardening soil, how exciting, yeah, I know... That's Kanuma for ya.

But here's the street that I drive down twice a week to get to work:

This was filmed on April 10th, 2010.

A Few Clips from Yayoi Festival in Nikko, April 2010

The quality of these clips is not the best, but that's because poor Dr Trouble was doing double duty both taking pictures AND filming. And what was I doing? Working! Somebody has to in this family, LOL!

So, if you can stand the grainy, shaky footage, here is what Yayoi festival in Nikko looked like this year. Well, at least some of it, since the festival goes on for several days and this was filmed on April 16th.

Here is the yatai procession through Nikko:

And when the floats stopped by Shinyo bridge, a traditional ohayashi performance took place.

Here are the highlights:

And because everyone likes girls playing musical instruments (even when the actual playing is rather questionable), there's more:

So, that was what was going outside. This is what was going inside the shrines:

And that concludes (finally!) the report from Yayoi festival in Nikko in April 2010.

You can read more about the festival here.

And if you prefer photos - go here and here and here - that's our other blog - Tochigi Daily Photo.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Long Nose, Red Face, Blondish Hair - or who's who at mikoshi processions

Continuing with our tradition of explaining shinto stuff that nobody is really interested in, today Dr Trouble tackles Sarutahiko (猿田彦) - a local deity, who guided Amaterasu's grandson to victory.

So, prepare to be confused...

Some of you may wonder who the heck that long-nosed, reddish-faced guy at mikoshi parades is. At mikoshi parades, you can normally find him in the very front row of the procession (not always, but most likely).

Long-nosed red-faced god chatting with a tourist along the mikoshi parade route at Futaara shrine in Nikko.

Believe it or not, he is a god, a very unusual god, who appears in the collection of Japanese myths - Kojiki (古事記) and Nihon shoki (日本書紀).

His name is Sarutahiko (猿田彦).

In this blog entry I will try to explain why this god has such an outrageous outfit, walks at the front of the mikoshi procession and guides the entire parade.

Tenson Kourin (天孫降臨) and Sarutahiko (猿田彦) as Kunitsukami (国津神, local earthly god)

In Kojiki (古事記), Sarutahiko (猿田彦) appears in the chapter titled “Tenson Kourin” - (天孫降臨), meaning grandchild (孫) of Amaterasu (天照大神); descending (降臨) from Taka Amahara and ruling Ashihara Nakatsukuni (葦原中国).

The grandson’s name is Ninigi (no Mikoto) (邇邇芸命) and his father (son of Amaterasu, in other words), Ameno oshihomimi (正勝吾勝勝速日天忍穂耳命) suggests for him to go down from Taka Amahara (高天原 - this word has a variety of pronunciations in Japanese) to Ashihara Nakatsukuni (葦原中国 - where non-gods live) to rule (or conquer) the place.

Anyway, the chapter of Tenson Kourin (天孫降臨) depicts the story of ancient gods (grandson Ninigi and other gods from the Amaterasu side) showing their military presence to the local powers governing the western part of Japan. And after defeating those local powers, the military influence of Amaterasu stretched all the way down to the southern tip of Kyushu - to Minami Satsuma (南さつま), a city in Kagoshima prefecture.

In Kanuma he rides in a truck, but still at the very front of the procession

Where is Taka Amahara (高天原) - where does Amatsukami live?

Taka Amahara (高天原) is considered to be the area where, a long, long time ago, the ancestors of the current Imperial family had ruled. Japanese myth scholars still argue about the exact location of Taka Amahara (高天原). Some non-scholars (myth otaku) say that Taka Amahara (高天原) could be overseas (Korea, southern parts of ancient China, Iraq or even Israel)!!! Year, laugh if you want. No historical evidence has been found to support the Mideast or Israel theory of Taka Amahara.

Until the mid-Tokugawa shogunate era, Kyoto court believed Katsuragi (葛城) in Yamato district (大和) to be the place. Yamato Katsuragi is an ancient description of Gose city (御所市) in Nara prefecture (奈良県). In Gose city, Takamahiko Shrine (高天彦神社), one of the most prestigious shrines described in Engishiki (延喜式), is located at the east side of Mt. Kongo (金剛山). The ancient name of Mt. Kongo is Taka Amahara yama (Mt. Taka Amahara; 高天原山).

Where is Ashihara Nakatsukuni (葦原中国)?

This is also controversial. Some say it’s in Kibi no Kuni (吉備国), the area which corresponds to the whole of Okayama prefecture, eastern part of Hiroshima prefecture, part of Kagawa prefecture, and western part of Hyogo prefecture. Others say that it signifies Izumo province (出雲国) and its surrounding areas (current Chu-goku area 中国地方), or Kyushu area (九州地方).

While Ninigi (邇邇芸命) and his five companions: Ame no koyane (天児屋命), Futodama (布刀玉命), Ame no Uzume (天宇受賣命), Ishikoridome (伊斯許理度売命), and Tama no oya (玉祖命) went trooping around, they brought Sanshu no Jingi - Imperial Regalia of Japan (三種の神器) with them: Amanomurakumo no tsurugi (a sword - 天叢雲剣), Yata no kagami (a mirror - 八咫鏡), and Yasakani no magatama (a jewel - 八尺瓊勾玉).

Imperial regalia photo from here.

From top to bottom:
Yata no kagami (八咫鏡),
Amanomurakumo no tsurugi (天叢雲剣), and
Yasakani no magatama (八尺瓊勾玉).

They are not the original (real) ones, however. There are several hypotheses as to where they are now located. One hypothesis is that the current emperor has them all because having them all IS the absolute proof to be the successor of the first Emperor Jimmu.

Yasakani no magatama (八尺瓊勾玉) is believed to be in the Emperor’s palace, for sure. That holy jewel is in a special and ritual room at the Imperial palace (御所). The room is called Kenji no ma (剣璽), located next to the Emperor’s bedroom. Yata no kagami (八咫鏡) is either enshrined in Kotai jingu (皇大神宮) at Ise jingu (Ise Grand Shrine - 伊勢神宮), or is kept at the Imperial palace, or it was lost in 1185 during the battle of Dannoura (壇ノ浦の戦い). Amanomurakumo no tsurugi (天叢雲剣) is either enshrined in Atsuta shrine, or is somewhere at the Imperial palace, or was lost in the same war in 1185...

Besides those five followers listed above, Ninigi was accompanied by three more gods, Omoikane (常世思金神), who takes care of ritual ceremonies, Ame no tajikarao (天手力男神), and Ame no iwatowake no kami (天石門別神).

When Ninigi’s group was about to cross into hostile territory, at the border they met Sarutahiko (猿田彦).

Preparing to lead the mikoshi procession in Moka

Sarutahiko (猿田彦) is a Kunitsu kami (国津神), a rural god in Ashihara Nakatsukuni (葦原中国), who is “illuminating” from Taka Amahara (高天原) to Ashihara Nakatsukuni (葦原中国). The second kanji of Amaterasu (天”照”) - "terasu" (照), means “to illuminate”. Based on this description, the English language wiki interprets him as being a leader of earthly (国) kami (神) - Kunitsu kami (国津神).

Sarutahiko (猿田彦) is one of the very few deities whose appearance is described in great detail. He is 7 shaku (尺= an ancient unit that is almost the same as one foot) tall, which would be about 210 cm; and his nose reaches 7 ata (=咫; an ancient unit of a circle’s circumference. 1 foot diameter of a circle’s circumference corresponds to 4 ata). That means the diameter of his nose is 1.75 feet! That’s bigger than a normal person’s entire face, isn’t it?

Leading the mikoshi procession in Moka

His eyes looked like either shining mirrors or bladder cherry - Hoozuki (ホオズキ) in Japanese, according to Kojiki. Since his appearance was so terrifying, Amaterasu (天照大神) and Takamimusubi (高木神) were afraid of him and these chickenshits begged Amenouzume (天宇受売命), one of the female deities amongst Ninigi’s five followers, to ask who the heck he was...

After Amenouzume went over to check his ID, Sarutahiko introduced himself and was kind enough to offer to be their guide in the hostile territory. His offer was accepted and thanks to Sarutahiko, Ninigi’s military mission was successful.

There were two of them at the Miya fest last year

After Sarutahiko’s mission was completed, Amenouzume (天宇受売命) sent him back to his hometown, nearby Isuzu river (五十鈴川) in Ise (伊勢); currently Ise city in Mie prefecture (三重県伊勢市). Later on Sarutahiko and Amenouzume got married (see ladies, this is what happens if you start asking strange guys questions, you may end up marrying them, just ask Ms. Trouble, she can confirm) and from that time on Amenouzume is called Sarumeno Kimi (猿女君). This husband and wife team tends to be enshrined as a pair in many shrines. Aratate shrine (荒立神社), link in Japanese only, is believed to be the place of their marriage and where their house was built.

Aratate shrine is in the middle of nowhere!

Image from Aratate shrine website, showing face masks of Sarutahiko (猿田彦) and Amenouzume (天宇受売命/天鈿女命) (from left to right).

Two shrines, Tsubaki ookamiyashiro (椿大神社) - Tsubaki grand shrine in Suzuka city and Sarutahiko shrine (猿田彦神社) in Ise city (both in Mie prefecture) are well-known for enshrining Sarutahiko.

Due to his terrifying appearance, Sarutahiko is considered as the origin of Tengu (天狗).

Image - wikipedia.

Although the name of Tengu was taken from a dog-looking Chinese demon, it morphed into a crow in artistic depictions in Japan.

Back in the olden days Tengu’s appearance wasn’t really specified and there were many different descriptions of him. However, later on, the image converged into a reddish faced bird looking supernatural creature with an unnecessarily long nose wearing a training Buddhist monk’s (Shugensou - 修験僧, or Yamabushi - 山伏) outfits and tall wooden sandals - geta (下駄).

Here you can see the funky sandals. Tengu is heading to the Utsunomiya castle to lead the procession back to Futaara shrine:

Since Sarutahiko’s role was as a guiding god, he appears at the front of mikoshi (a portable shrine with a god inside) during mikoshi processions.

Does it make sense now?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Day Trip to Tokyo

We don't go to Tokyo very often. In fact, the last time we were there was in August, when we played tourists at Yasukuni and Asakusa. Why we don't go there much? One, there's no need, and two, I hate the place. It's obnoxious and annoying.

"Gee, Ms. Trouble, you should love it there, then," I hear you say... "obnoxious and annoying is just your thing."

And then there's the Tokyo accent, the melody and intonation that sound like begging yelps of an unhappy chihuahua high on a mixture of Red Bull and acid. Did I say "annoying"? Yes, I did.

There's also plenty of foreigners, everywhere. Foreigners of every color, shape and size. While waiting to cross the street in Shibuya, in 5 minutes I've seen more gaijins than in a year in Utsunomiya (and that's counting our foreign parties every other month AND my foreign coworkers).


And no trip to Shibuya would be complete without saying "hello" to Hachiko

The nice thing about Tokyo is that just about everyone there seems to speak some sort of English, unprompted, just because I'm a gaijin. From the very confused staffer at McDonalds in Akihabara, who insisted on answering us in English, to the old lady on the train, who thanked me in English for giving up my seat for her.

And speaking of old ladies and seats on the train... I've written about it before, and I'm going to write about it every chance I get - Japanese parents are brainless morons. Maybe not all of them, but the great majority - yes.

Don't get me wrong, I love Japan 90% of the time, but when the other 10% gets to me, especially when I'm PMSing (like today), I start to foam at the mouth with righteous anger.

And nothing gets me foaming at the mouth like the assorted nimwits - kids, teens and young people, who comfortably sit on crowded trains while old people and pregnant ladies stand. And those nimwits do their best to ignore those old people and pregnant ladies.

When the parents and teachers of those nimwits get to be old (yes, there's no escaping it, happens to the best of us), maybe then they will realize their mistake.

This is what happened today.

I got up to offer this older lady my seat, she said "thank you" but before she had a chance to sit down, the kid jumped in and claimed the seat for himself. The kid's mother was standing on the other side and did and said nothing. It went on for 7 stops. I took a few pictures of the situation and started to film it. Only then did the mother tell him to get up and then quickly moved to the other end of the car. I guess she was thought I was a perv, filming kids on trains. Whatever. The old lady finally got to sit down. And we got off at Ikebukuro.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Yayoi Festival in Nikko

The weather continued to be nasty last week and made this year’s Yayoi festival in Nikko an almost unbearable experience. It was cold. And rainy. And cold. And ridiculously windy. And snowy. And everything nasty. And on the rare occasions when it was sunny, it was bitterly cold.

During the last day (Saturday, April 17th), the weather was so pissy that only the important ritual ceremonies were held in the morning. Just to get them done and over with as soon as possible. Other events were canceled. And needless to say, as soon as the ceremonial part of the festival was finished, the sun came out. I guess the gods were pleased with the offerings…

Festival goers wrapped in blankets, it's cold!

But, first things first.

Dr Trouble (who’s a total matsuri otaku) was kind enough to prepare this short bit of Yayoi info for your reading pleasure.

Nikko Futaara Shrine (日光二荒山神社) Reitai-sai (例大祭) Yayoi-sai (=Yayoi Festival 弥生祭) information is provided in English by the Nikko city tourist office here. Please check it out.

Below we give you supplementary information about this festival and hopefully, together with the official version on the Nikko city tourist office site, it will all start making sense.

In the late 8th century monk Shodo (priest Shoto? - according to the description on the Nikko city website; 勝道上人) developed Nikko as a sacred training ground for Buddhist monks and Shinto priests (there was not much distinction between these two religions back then). Futaara shrine now represents the entire Futaara shrine complex – there’s much more to Futaara than just the main Futaara building.

The ritual ceremonies of the first four days (from April 13 to 16) of the Yayoi festival are connected with Futaara shrine. During the last two days (April 16 and 17), along with mikoshi (神輿) that belongs to Futaara shrine, you also encounter yatai (家台: in other parts of Japan also called dashi - 山車), owned and decorated by Nikko city locals from each of the 13 city districts. Unlike mikoshi, which has to be carried, yatai has four wheels which makes parading from shrine to shrine and around town a lot easier. Why? Yatai in Nikko can turn by themselves (unlike the floats in Moka).

It looks like these three shrines, Honsya (本社, a building behind Haiden Oratory 拝殿), Honguu (本宮), and Takinoo shrine (滝尾神社) in Futaara all have their own mikoshi.

So far so good? OK, here's a brief summary:

Priests carrying mikoshi

In this festival, the three shrines of Futaara get their mikoshi all snazzed up and take them out for a walk, with Shinto priests dressed up in ritual outfits doing the heavy lifting and carrying bit. Nikko city districts have their own yatai and the natives - all dolled up in fancy festival “cosplay” attire, take the yatai out for a spin.

Futaara priests to the left, Tosho-gu priests to the right, in front of Tosho-gu

During the first four days of Yayoi you can see mikoshi (owned by the three sub-shrines) being carried back and forth around the complex. They stop by at Tosho-gu (東照宮) to say “hi” to their neighbors when passing by the front gate of Tosho-gu. That is where and when the staff of Tosho-gu offers numerous items to the Futaara mikoshi in accordance with traditional formulas in ritual ceremonies.

Ritual sake offering

At Sakamukae shiki (酒迎式) on April 16th, rice, sake (Japanese wine), veggies are also donated by Tosho-gu priests (東照宮神職) to the front row of mikoshi at the main gate of Tosho-gu (is Ieyasu Tokugawa watching the ceremony?).

Ritual food offering

District-owned yatais go through the Nikko shrine area [i.e. JR Nikko station, Route 119, Shinkyo bridge (神橋), Omotesando (表参道), Nishisando (西参道) and so on]. On April 17th, all the yatai get together at Futaara shrine and they exchange name cards there!!! This we haven’t seen – the official website says it was cancelled due to snow. The last time it was canceled was in 1969. When we asked the dude at Futaara shrine, he said only Reitaisai (例大祭), a ritual ceremony organized by Futaara priests, took place as planned in the morning. We missed it…


Traditional performances - ohayashi (= traditional orchestra お囃子), hounou-yokyo (奉納余興), nihon-buyoh (traditional dancing日本舞踊), minyoh (traditional singing 民謡), welcome you at any occasion during the last two days. But not today, because the weather was yucky.

The official site says that every single process of the ceremony has to be in law and order, or you will be in trouble. Note that another name of this festival is Gota matsuri (ごた祭り). Gota means “trouble” in the local, ancient dialect. Just like the name of our blog.

This year the weather was “gota”. Very “gota”.

PS. You can see more Yayoi photos here and here and here on our other blog - Tochigi Daily Photo.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sakura 2010

It's very disappointing, at least in our neck of woods, or rather - Tochigi. I remember this time last year, the trees were in full bloom. We were driving along Nikko kaido (route 119) to go to the Utsunomiya zoo (there are some nice cherry trees there) and the sakura stretch of route 119 was literally canopied by pink flowers. Same day this year - zip, zilch, nada. I'll check again on Wednesday on my way to work, but I'm not holding my breath.

And I'm not the only one who's disappointed. Most people say that the cherry blossoms this year are late, the color is not very pretty and it's been too cold (or rainy, or windy) to properly hanami (have a cherry blossom viewing party).

But Dr. Trouble, in his dedication to try out his brand new lens, went out and very valiantly found some pretty pink trees for your viewing pleasure.


This is the Red Gate (Akamon) leading to Jiko temple (Jikoji). Of course, the colors are off, courtesy of the lame Typepad photo handling thingie.

And this is at the Korinji temple grounds.


And this is at the Shiroyama Nishi elementary school, along Tochigi route 70, almost on the border of Nikko and Utsunomiya. This tree is 400 (yes, four hundred) years old. And this school was scheduled to close a few years back and this kids were to be bussed to a different district. But local parents said "no", because they wanted their children to study where the 400 year old cherry tree grows.

And this is the same tree in a photo found in a book about old Utsunomiya streets (published in 1985 by the Utsunomiya City Board of Education):


There are more sakura photos on our other blog - Tochigi Daily Photo - here and here.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

5 Videos From Last Year's Tenno Sai - better late than never...

Note: if you're reading this using Blogsherpa, you may have to click over to the blog proper to watch the videos. I don't think Blogsherpa supports YouTube. Thanks!

Now, that I've discovered the joys of YouTube, there's no stopping me. I dug out all the tapes from last year, and dutifully edited and uploaded most of them. I'm not an iMovie master, in fact, I'm anything but. I still can't figure out how to speed up the video without a tragic loss of quality - as it is happening to my clips right now.

So, there's plenty of room for improvement.

For now, I can present you the whole Tenno Sai series. I've written about this festival, which took place on July 18th 2009 here and here. In those previous posts I showed you plenty of pictures, but now I can show you plenty of videos. Ha! Ain't I awesome? And it's only a year later! Whoa! My speed is amazing!

And I tried to get them all in HD, whatever that means, because if you're going to torture yourself watching amateur YouTube videos, you might as well do it without trying to scratch your eyes out.

So, here you have them there kids doing wadaiko (taiko drumming). They were pretty good:

And here you have mikoshis (mikoshi? not sure what the plural of "mikoshi" would be in English) leaving the Utsunomiya Castle Park.

And more mikoshi getting ready to parade all the way to Futara shrine:

In reality, the exodus from the castle grounds went on for hours, there were 35 mikoshi (mikoshis?) if I remember correctly. Mercifully, I cut it all down to 10 minutes total, and that's for two clips combined. How's that for efficient editing, huh?

OK, after leaving the castle grounds, they paraded through the city, and it started raining. We caught up with them on Orion-dori (Orion street), which is basically one big pedestrian mall:

And because Orion-dori has a roof, it wasn't raining. The video ends rather abruptly when the red team leader asks me to join the mikoshi carriers.

And here is the final episode when the mikoshi teams arrive at Futara Shrine:

Now that we're done with 2009 festivals, I will try to be more timely with the upcoming 2010 season.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Kanuma Buttsuke Autumn Festival - part 2 (better late than never)

About 5 years months ago, I said there would be part 2 to the post about the Kanuma Buttsuke Autumn Festival (鹿沼ぶっつけ秋祭り). I said it and then promptly forgot about it. There was no part 2.

And it would have stayed forgotten if not for the fact that I'm a moron who can't figure out how to speed up a video using iMovie without "converting" said video first. Converting to what? Buddhism? Christianity? Either way, the resulting loss of quality is rather pathetic.

And because I didn't know how to "unconvert" (revert?) a video, I had to look for a tape and upload it all over again. (Yes, maybe there is an easier way, but what can I do? I'm an idiot, I told you that many times before.)

So yes, I was looking for one particular tape, but instead found another. And out of curiosity uploaded it. And voila! Wouldn't you know it, we got our part 2 to the Buttsuke Autumn Festival. See, even idiots get lucky. Occasionally. Once every 5 years months, or so.

Here is a short clip from Kanuma:

If you're reading this post via Blogsherpa, I am afraid that you have to click over to the blog proper to watch the video.

Oh yes, and by the way, does anyone know how to speed up clips in iMovie without the quality going down the tubes? Or do I need to dig out my old copy of Final Cut Express for that sort of magic?

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Miya Matsuri 2009 video

I am still a youtube virgin and my video editing skills suck enormously, but I am slowly getting better at this sitting my camcorder in people's faces thingie. And the sheer geniusness of iMovie helps too - what would I do without its built-in anti-shaking fixer upper? Chew my leg off and bleed to death trying to deal with the shaky image.

But yes, it's spring here, more or less (some days more and some days none at all) and that got me thinking about the matsuri (festival) season. I can't wait for the mikoshi, fundoshi, crazy hairstyles, choco bananas onna stick and yakisoba inna bun (Cut Me Own Throat Dibbler would be proud!).

And now, when I'm watching this short video of day two of Miya Matsuri - Utsunomiya City festival, I am getting positively antsy. Fortunately there's a festival in Nikko in two weeks, and let's hope I'll do a better job with my camera there.

If you're reading this through Blogsherpa, you need to click through to the blog to watch the video:

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Iwasaki Kanzeon Taisai in Nikko

Last Sunday, against my better judgment, I let myself be talked into a trip to Iwasaki. Not very far, but considering the temperature outside, and the nasty weather in general that day, I am not surprised I have a raging cold now. Yes, I know, I know, cold weather doesn’t cause colds, viruses cause colds, but it sure makes life a lot easier to have cold weather to blame.

So yes, Iwasaki. Technically within Nikko city limits, practically – in the middle of nowhere. I’m not going to bother with giving directions, because, really, who cares… If you’re visiting Nikko, you have better things to do that look for a little temple in the boondocks. And even if you drive on that dinky country road a couple of times a week (like I do on my way to Imaichi), chances are you won’t notice a little temple hidden in the woods.

People going to the lower temple

Ah yes, the temple! Iwasaki Kannon (岩崎観音). It’s actually two temples – the main one at the top of the stone steps, and another one up on the rock above. Getting to the upper part is a hike. After a couple of meters, the steps end, and you are climbing over exposed tree roots, hoping not to fall down and lose your teeth. Not a pleasant experience, especially when it’s drizzling and the soil turns to mud.

The natives mentioned that the metal staircase (more like a metal ladder, actually) leading to the upper temple is a very recent addition. Previously you just grabbed what you could – branches, roots, and prayed you’d make it to the top and not end up in a ravine somewhere.

On Sunday people made the trek up to see a tiny Buddha statue (Sho-kannon: 正観音) - it’s really tiny – about 5 cm tall, and housed in a gold cabinet. Normally, it’s revealed to the public every 33 years, but since the inner sanctum (Okuno Inn 奥の院) was being renovated, the tiny Buddha made an unscheduled public appearance after only 30 years.


But the little Buddha was not the only reason I came up to Iwasaki. Every year on the 4th Sunday in March, the temple celebrates Iwasaki Kanzeon Taisai (岩崎観世音大祭;いわさきかんぜおんたいさい), a festival of sorts. With lots of eggs involved.

If you want to have a child you attend this festival, go up to the priest sitting at the temple and get one egg. You say a prayer, take that egg home and get busy making babies. The deal is that after you produce offspring, you bring that offspring to the temple along with two eggs, which you give to the priest. You only give the eggs, though you could try giving the kid too, if parenthood is getting to you. Now you understand why there were hordes of children everywhere.

The egg-giving priests tried their best to push one on me, and I did my best to avoid it. Instead, I let myself be talked into drinking a cup of hot amazake, which is one of those things I’d rather not do. But still, it was a better alternative than being stuck with a kid-bringing egg.


Praying for a child

Amazake looked vile. It’s a traditional sweet, supposedly low-alcoholic drink made from fermented rice. And this amazake tasted awful. But hey, it was either drink it or get an egg, and so I chose to chug down a cupful of warm nasty, which twenty minutes later made me sick to my stomach.

This egg festival is supposedly over 400 years old, and judging by the crowds and all the kids running around, it’s going strong and the magical eggs seem to be working.


The highlight of the event was a setsubun-style mochi (and snack, and tissue paper, and coin) throwing.
When did that tradition start? A lot more recently than 400 years ago, that’s for sure. But when exactly? Nobody knows.

To see more photos please go to this post on our other blog - Tochigi Daily Photo.