What happened then and what happens now
It was on May 18th 1616 when the founder of Tokugawa shogunate passed away in Sunpu castle (駿府城) in Suruga Province (駿河国). He was 75 years old. It is said that he died of stomach cancer; he most definitely had ulcers - probably as the result of too much worry and stress throughout his life…
Sunpu castle in Shizuoka prefecture. His resort pension after he retired as Shogun (Well, he still had a lot to do after retirement).
His body was initially buried at Kunohzan Tosho-gu (久能山東照宮), and a “part” of his spirit was transferred to Tosho-gu in Nikko the following year. Kunohzan Tosho-gu also celebrates the anniversary of his death, but on April 17 and not in May like in Nikko. The discrepancy between the two dates is due to the difference in the olden calendar and the one we use today.
The warrior parade (Hyakumonozoroe sennnin gyouretsu) takes place on the anniversary of his death and the whole idea of the parade is to re-enact the ritual ceremony of when the spirit of Ieyasu was transfered from Kunohzan Tosho-gu to Nikko Tosho-gu. The proper name of Hyakumonozoroe Sennnin gyouretsu (百物揃千人行列) is Shinyotogyosai (神輿渡御祭).
Day One, May 17th
On day one, May 17th, the descendants of the Tokugawa Shogun and Ujiko members get together at Honsha (本社) at 10 o’clock.
This ceremony is called “Reitaisai (例大祭)” and during Reitaisai, the divinity of Ieyasu is temporarily transferred into Mikoshi (= portable shrine). Three mikoshi then head to Futaara shrine where Ieyasu’s spirit is transferred yet again. This time from Mikoshi through Haiden (拝殿) to Honden (本殿). Both buildings are in the Futaara shrine complex.
After the divine spirit transfer is completed, Yoinarisai festival (宵成祭) takes place and three mikoshi spend the night at Futaara shrine, accompanied by shinto priests from both Tosho-gu and Futaara shrine. And what do they do all night? Drink divine booze perhaps?
The stay of Ieyasu’s spirit at Futaara shrine is considered to represent his physical death (= separation of his spirit from the body) and his spirit zooming off to heaven (= Futaara shrine).
Day Two, May 18th
The next day at 10 o’clock at Futaara shrine, a ritual ceremony to transfer his spirit back to mikoshi is conducted, and a festival called “Togyosai festival (渡御祭)” follows an hour later. It involves approximately 1200 members of Ujiko - including Nikko city Mayor, city council members and Nikko locals. – And they’re ALL MEN!! Oh man… Though Mrs. Trouble swears she saw some women in manly outfits. That is in addition to the two Toshogu shrine maidens in white dresses and funky headgear.
Anyway, all those guys are dressed in full traditional get up and go cosplaying from Futaara shrine to Otabijo (御旅所). This is supposed to be a recreation of the journey that His Divinity took while moving from Kunohzan to Nikko. In order to re-enact the journey of Ieyasu’s spirit, Otabijo is considered to be Kunohzan (Mt. Kunoh: 久能山), the place of his death.
When the lead of the parade enters Otabijo, three mikoshi are welcomed at Otabijo Honden (御旅所本殿: Main Hall) where a special meal called Sanbondate nanajuugozen (三品立七十五膳), consisting of something like three courses with 75 dishes (traditionally these dishes are divided into three groups coming from different sources, like the ocean, mountains and fields), is served to His Divinity. No wonder he had ulcers!
And when His Divinity is done eating, two Mai performances, Yaotome mai (八乙女舞) and Ozumaasobi no mai (東遊舞) take place.
After watching the show, it is time for him to go back to Tosho-gu, and that happens at around 1 PM.
The same event called Shuuki taisai (秋季大祭) takes place in autumn, on October 17th. That parade is relatively smaller in volume – there’s just one mikoshi and approximately 800 Ujiko members.
Other accompanying events
On May 17th (day one), there are other events: a traditional dance performance and yabusame (archery on horseback). The dancers come from Shiba Daijinguu (芝大神宮) in Tokyo. Amaterasu (天照大神) and Toyouke ohmikami (豊受大神) are enshrined there.
At 8 in the morning in Rinnohji Temple Sanbutsudo (輪王寺三仏堂), Ennen no mai (延年舞) is performed. Two freshly recruited monks in red uniforms and white scarves are on the main stage and dancing like Michael Jackson (well, almost) while other monks chant Buddhist gospels to bring peace and prosperity. This does not appear to have anything to do with Ieyasu’s death anniversary, at least to me, since this style of dancing was brought over by Ennin (慈覚大師円仁) from ancient China during the Tang Dynasty (唐). It’s been around a lot longer than Ieyasu, who was born in the 16th century.
Dr. Trouble almost got thrown out for taking those photos. Technically, he was outside of the restricted "press" area, but just barely, and the Rinnohji staff did not take too kindly to it.
To be continued in part two (hopefully tomorrow).
OK, Part Two is here.