Japan from the inside out

Matsuri da (59): The Confucians do it too!

Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, November 7, 2007

MOST JAPANESE FESTIVALS are associated with Shinto shrines, and a few with Buddhist temples, but there are exceptions for everything. The Confucian temple in Taku, Saga Prefecture, holds its Sekisai Festival every spring and fall, and this year’s fall festival was held on 28 October.

Yet in one of those examples of syncretism that makes Japan such a fascinating place, one of the highlights of the Sekisai Festival is the performance of gagaku, traditional music of the Japanese Imperial court.

The Sekisai Festival has been held twice a year at the Taku temple since it was built, and preparations are already underway to celebrate its 300th anniversary in 2008. The festival starts with the mayor and other city officials making offerings at the temple’s statue of Confucius. These offerings include chestnuts, sweet sake, and other food, as well as a traditional dance, performed by local students in Chinese-style dress. The folks in Taku perform the dance both in the spring and fall, but Confucian temples in China offer it only in the fall.

The festival day is the only time the general public is allowed to see the interior of the shrine. This year’s festival was held in conjunction with the local Taku Festival, which the people of the area said enhanced the festival synergy.

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