Samurai Dave: The Roving Ronin Report

Rambling Narrative of Travels, Thoughts, and Embellishments

Fuji Fire Festival

At the end of August at the foot of Mt Fuji the town of Fujiyoshida puts on a festival in order to save the inhabitants of Eastern Japan from the wrath of Fuji’s resident goddess. It’s believed that if the Fujiyoshida Himatsuri (fire festival) is not done properly that the mountain goddess will become enraged and Mt Fuji will erupt. 

The festival is over 500 years old but its origins stretch far, far back into a dim and misty age when gods walked the earth and man was but a dream. In those distant times, Ninigi no Mikoto, the grandson of the sun goddess Amaterasu-omikami, came down from the heavens to control the area that would be one day be Japan. He took the daughter of a mountain god as his wife whose name was Konohanasakuya-hime. Konohana became pregnant in one night which made her husband suspicious. She took offense at this and had a doorless hut made which she placed herself in. She claimed if the children were not Ninigi’s they would harmed by the fire she would set. She then had the doorless hut set on fire but delivered three healthy children thus proving her innocence and her children’s divine lineage. 

 At Fujiyoshida’s fire festival one of the main elements of the festival are the taimatsu torches which symbolize the fire Konohana lit to prove her innocence. The other elements are the mikoshi (portable shrine) which carries her spirit and the portable shrine which is shaped like Mt Fuji itself. 

Another name for the festival is Chinka Taisai which means “to  extinguish fire.” The purpose at the end of the festival is to ensure that Mt. Fuji will not erupt for another year.

Despite its serene appearance, Mt Fuji is actually an active volcano. Not active like a Hawaiian volcano but not dormant either. The last time Mt Fuji erupt was 300 years ago. According to the latest research, the pressure in the magma chamber is higher than the last eruption. Whether this means an eruption will occur soon or not remains to be seen.

For more photos:

http://therovingroninreport.blogspot.jp/2012/09/fuji-fire-festival.html

September 21, 2012 Posted by | japan, japanese culture, Japanese festival, japanese folklore, travel | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Joma Shinji – Kyudo (Japanese Archery) Exorcism Ritual for New Years

Joma Shinji is a New Year’s Japanese Archery Ritual for driving away evil for the coming year. Six archers dressed in formal samurai kimono known as kariginu shoot two arrows a piece at a large circular target. On the back of the target is painted an upside kanji character for “oni” which means “devil.” Striking the target is believe to expel evil particularly shots which pass through the oni character.

Since ancient times in Japan, arrows have been seen as having the power to banish and destroy evil. Even the twanging of bow strings is thought to ward away evil spirits. During New Year’s, decorative wooden arrows are sold at temples and shrines as good luck charms for the coming year.

Joma Shinji takes place at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine in Kamakura on January 5th. The ritual dates back to a time when Kamakura was the military capital of Japan (1185-1333). The first hereditary shogun, Minamoto no Yoritomo, promoted a variety of military type rituals usually involving archery such as Joma Shinji. In his day, the bow was the primary weapon of the samurai, their profession being known as “The Way of the Horse and Bow.”

Yoritomo was keen that his warriors not become soft even in times of peace. He was all too mindful of what had happened with his enemies, the Taira family. The Taira were once the dominate samurai clan of Japan but they became too intoxicated with the luxuries that power can bring and many of them preferred to excel in non-warrior pursuits such as music and poetry.

War broke out between the Taira and Minamoto and eventually the Taira were utterly defeated in 1185. It has often been pointed out that the Taira’s love of luxury and leisurely pursuits were a major factor in their downfall. Yoritomo did not want the same happening to his samurai so he decided to place his shogunate capital in Kamakura far away from the debilitating influence of the aristocratic culture of Kyoto and he encouraged the continual practice of the bow in annual rituals and contests.

Today the Ogasawara Ryu, a school of Japanese Archery, conducts the Joma Shinji Ritual. The Ogasawara school and clan was established in the Kamakura Era by Ogasawara Nagakiyo who became an archery instructor to Yoritomo. The Ogasawara Ryu does a number of archery events throughout the year including Yabusame, mounted archery.

For more photos check here: Joma Shinji Photos

January 22, 2012 Posted by | 2012, Archery, culture, history, japan, japanese archery, japanese culture, japanese history, Japanese martial arts, kyudo, New Years, Shinto, travel, youtube, zen | , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Yabusame – Gunslingin’ Samurai (Japanese Mounted Archery)

Yabusame is a Japanese Shinto ritual involving mounted archery. Archers ride at a full gallop and shoot at three targets set up at certain intervals. Hitting all three, an archer is considered to be very skillful. The ritual is purpose is to bring prosperity and peace.

The video is a complilation of Yabusame events I have been to over the last two years. There are two different schools of Yabusame – Ogasawara Ryu who perform at Asakusa (here 2007&2008) and Takeda Ryu who perform at Meiji Shrine (2006), Miura (2007), and Kamakura (Spring 2007 & Fall 2008)

The song is called “Gunslinger Man” and it fits with the old tradition of samurai on horseback using bows rather than spears and swords as they did later. The Yabusame costume looks rather cowboy-ish.

The music is by the Exotic Ones:
http://www.myspace.com/exoticones

This also a tribute to the memory of a friend of mine who passed away a few years ago:
Jack Hunter Dave, Jr who wrote and sung the song “Gunslinger Man.”
http://my.att.net/p/s/community.dll?ep=87&subpageid=150399&ck=

November 28, 2008 Posted by | Archery, Blogroll, culture, entertainment, festival, japan, japanese archery, japanese culture, life, martial arts, mounted archery, tokyo, travel, video, Yabusame, youtube, zen | , , , , , , | Leave a comment