Matsuri da! (75): Now this is a blast from the past!
Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, March 26, 2008
TRADITIONS USUALLY INVOLVE the continuous conduct of activities or events over a period of many years–or in the case of Japan, for centuries.
But sometimes, traditions once discontinued are later brought back to life. That’s exactly what happened last fall when parishioners of the Tsuda Tenman-gu, a Shinto shrine in Himeji, Hyogo, revived the use of a festival float for the first time in 60 years. To commemorate the float’s return, they held a consecration ceremony, or what in Japanese is called a nyukonshiki, literally an “entry of the spirit” ceremony. One part of the rite involved carrying the float around the shrine grounds while vigorously lifting it and chanting Yo-iyasa!
Members of the approximately 340 households in the city’s Shianbashi district had carried a float in the Tsuda shrine festivals for many years, but it was lost right after the end of World War II. They restored the child’s float about 30 years ago, and eventually the children who carried that one in festivals grew up and decided to restore the adult version as well.
As luck would have it, they were given a float that had been used by a shrine in nearby Fukusaki-cho (though reports did not explain why the people in that district no longer needed it). The Shianbashi residents set to work redecorating it, giving the roof a new coat of lacquer and applying a new crest.
Elsewhere, the older generation and those with a special interest might be the only ones to welcome the restoration of a tradition. Younger people, with other things on their mind and other ways to spend their time, might not have paid attention. But that apparently didn’t happen in Himeji. One Mr. Iwasaki, who is now 75, carried the previous version of the float for the last time at the age of 15. He was thrilled to report, “The younger generation was very excited, and the people of the town came together. I’ve never been so happy.”
Good for them. Let’s hope the people of Shianbashi continue to enjoy their float for many years—or centuries—to come.