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Purification in Coldness in Kikonai/木古内・寒中みそぎ

Last night, I watched a TV program that introduced Kanchu Misogi(=Purification in coldness) of Samekawa shrine in Kikonai. Four practitioners rushed into Tsugaru straits in this coldness again this year, each holding a sacred statue in their arms.
昨日、木古内町の佐女川神社の寒中みそぎがテレビで紹介されていました。今年も4人の行者が寒中の津軽海峡にご神体を持って突入しておりました。

This purification ceremony is 181th this year. I was really surprised knowing that it started so long ago. I checked the web site of Kikonai town that shows the beginning of this ceremony.
寒中みそぎは今年で181回を数えるとのこと。そんなに昔から!とびっくりしてしまいました。木古内町の寒中みそぎことはじめを読んでみると....(The below is quoted from the left.こちらから引用:http://www.town.kikonai.hokkaido.jp/kankoujouhou/ibento/kantyuumisogikotohajime/kantyuumisogikotohajime.htm) English translation by me.

「寒中みそぎ」が始まったのは1831年。
"Kanchu(in coldness) Misogi(purification)" started in 1831.

 この年、神社守の夢枕に「御神体を潔めよ」とのお告げがあり、目を覚ますと寒気肌さす1月15日の早朝でした。
In the year (of 1831), the administrator of the shrine received a divine prophecy in his dream that said, "Purify the icon of the god" and when he woke up, it was a cold early morning of January 15th.

神社守は直ちに真下を流れる佐女川(さめがわ)の氷を打ち砕き、身を切るような冷水で自身を清め御神体を抱いて海岸に臨むと、河口に大鮫が波に打たれ、その背中の上に美しい白衣をまとった女性の姿が見えました。
The administrator soon walked to the Samekawa River which ran just below the shrine and crashed the ice and purified himself with the cutting cold water. Then holding the icon, he walked toward the sea shore and found a woman near the river mouth. She was in beautiful white gown and stood on the back of a big shark.

 「あぁ、聖なる神の使者」と信じ、御神体を幾度となく沐浴し、ふと見ると女性の姿は見えず、大鮫は川の上流へ上がり小さな沼に消されたといいます。
He believed, "she must be a messenger of the sacred god!" Then he purified the icon several times. Then, he noticed that there wasn't the woman anymore. But he saw the big shark swimming upstream and disappearing in a small swamp.

 その年から、豊漁豊作が続いて村は大変賑わったといわれています。
It is said that since then, the town was blessed with bumper catch and crop and thrived a lot.

 以来、行修者と呼ばれる4人の若者が1月13日から佐女川神社に籠もり、昼夜問わず真水で何度も自身の身体を潔(きよ)め、毎年1月15日に別当・稲荷・山の神・弁財天の4体の御神体を抱き、厳寒の津軽海峡に飛び込み、その年の豊漁・豊作を祈願する伝統行事として引き継がれています
Since then, four young men that are called "gyoshusha" stay in the Samekawa shrine from January 13th and purify themselves several times with cold water day and night and on January 15th, they hold four sacred icons; Betto, Inari, Yamanokami, Benzaiten, in their arms and rush into the bitter cold Tsugaru Straits. This ceremony has been succeeded (for 181 years) as a traditional ceremony which pray for an abundant catch and harvest of the year.

~~~~~~~~
Four young boys are all around twenty years old and once they become the gyoshusha, or the one who practice the purification ceremony, they have to purify themselves for four years. If you start to purify benzaiten in the first year, next year, you have to purify another sacred icon. You have to purify all four sacred icons for four years. This year, a boy from Akita prefecture joined the ceremony to purify the benzaiten for the first time. He is a freshman at a university in Hakodate. Why he joined the ceremony? I found the answer in this web site, hakobula. He is a member of a research group whose professor researches this purification ceremony. His purpose is for his research, but, really amazing and respectable.

4人の若者、みんな20歳前後で、一度、行修者になると四年連続、みそぎをしなければならないそうです。一年目が弁財天なら、翌年は別の御神体、というように、弁財天から始まって、他三つの御神体を清める役をのこりの三年、つとめなければならないそうです。今年初めて参加の若者は秋田県出身で、函館市内の大学に通う一年生。いったいなぜ彼が行修者になったのか?調べたらあっさりはこぶらで理由が紹介されていました。「みそぎ祭りを研究する教授を通じての縁」なのだそうですが、研究目的とは言え、あっぱれです。

A friend of my husband is from Kikonai. I talked to my husband, "Why didn't your friend become the gyoshusha?" His reply was simple, "It's "kick ass".
夫の友人に木古内出身者がいるので、その友人もやればよかったのに、と話しをしたら、「半端ないぞ」、ということでした。

The practitoners purify themselves in the precincts with well water several time during the festival, which is from January 13 through 15. Unless they remain calm with it, they never tolerate the coldness of the sea water.
お祭り期間中(1月13日?15日)神社の境内の井戸水で何度も水ごりをするのですが、あれが大丈夫になるくらいやらないと海に入ったときに耐えられないのだそうです。

The TV program focused on the first year gyoshusha, the boy from Akita. On the first day, he was shivering and his eyes seemed half-dead. But on the second day, his face changed. He took on a determined look and I felt something awesome.
テレビでは一年目の青年を中心に撮影していましたが、一日目はぶるぶる震えている感じで目が半分死んでいる感じがしたのですが、二日目からはなんだか表情がキリッとしていて、なんとも言えないすごみを感じました。

In the same program at the last, the boy who finished his four-year duty seemed very happy with all his heart and greeted the others. It made me laugh XD.
テレビでは四年目で、今年のお祭りが最後になる行修者の若者が心底うれしそうに残りの三人に来年以降のお祭り、がんばれ?、とでも言わんがばかりに挨拶しているのが笑っちゃいました。

Anyway, the TV said that for 181 times, there has been no drop-out. But it means, any drop-out has not been allowed. It's really terrible!
それにしても181回のうち、脱落者はいない、と言っていますが、脱落者を許さず続けてきたお祭り。オソロシー
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Eho maki sushi roll/恵方巻

Today, February 3rd is Setsubun, which literally means a devision of seasons. Especially setsubun refers to the division between winter and spring and people celebrate the beginning of spring on its eve. So, setsubun is the day before the beginning of spring.

Mamemaki, or bean-throwing ceremony is performed at home, temples, kindergartens or nursery homes, etc. At the bean-throwing ceremony, the thrower has to say aloud, "Oni wa soto, Fuku wa uchi.(Evil is out, happiness inside!)" This ceremony is done to drive bad things away from your home, so during bean-throwing, windows or doors are opened. If you have small children, the practice may be fun, but for only adult-households or people who live alone, it is a little embarrassing. At least for me and for my husband.

We are reluctant to practice bean-throwing but I want to do something on setsubun. So, we celebrate setsubun with another adequate practice, which originates in Kansai region. It is called Eho-maki, or makizushi eating ceremony. "Eho" is a good direction of the year and "maki" means a makizushi, a sushi roll. Usually makizushi is served after being cut in pieces, but at this makizushi-eating ceremony, the sushi roll will be served without being cut. You are supposed to eat a sushi roll without a word while facing the lucky direction of the year.
恵方巻チラシ 恵方巻実物 恵方巻小



Eho-maki satisfies the need of people like me and now it is wide-spread nationwide. For people those who suffer from deciding the menu of the day, it is a salvation from the chronic trouble.

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Children's Day/こどもの日

May fifth is Children's day, one of the national holidays of Japan. According to my dictionary, it is established to respect children's personality and to wish their happiness. It used to be called Tango-no-sekku and considered as boys' festival. So, families with boys display traditional Japanese amor or a warrior doll and sometimes hoist carp-shaped streamers.
helmet
The photo above was taken at my friend's house. She has a son and for him, his grandmother has displayed the set. He is loved by everyone;)
こいのぼり
And next photo is carp streamers called koinoboi. Koi is a carp and nobori means a banner. The reason those banners are shaped carps comes from a Chinese legend that says only carps could swim up a rapid of Yellow Rivers and became dragons. So carps became a symbol of success for boys. The koinoboi in the photo is owned by Kubota Farm;)


The Doll Festival/ひなまつり

Today is March 3rd, the Doll Festival in Japan. Households with girls display Hina Dolls and offer various things such as Hishi-mochi(pink, white and green layered diamond-shaped rice cakes), shirozake(very sweet white sake), peach branches, hina arare(colorful rice crackers), etc. to celebrate girls' healthy growth and their future happiness.
今日は3月3日、ひな祭りです。女の子のいる家ではひな人形を飾って、ダイヤ形のピンク、白、緑の三色のお餅を重ねた菱餅や、甘い白酒、桃の花やひなあられなどを供えて、女の子の健やかな成長と将来の幸せを祈ります。

When I visited my friend's house, they have a gorgeous seven-tired display of Hina Dolls and asked a permission to take photos of it. It is about 70 years old. Usually hina dolls are dressed in costumes of nobles of Heian period(794-1185) but hair styles of the dolls are children's at that time and very cute!
昨日お邪魔したお友達の家では立派な七段飾りのひな人形が飾られていたので写真を撮らせてもらいました。70年ほど前のものだそうです。ひな人形はだいたい平安時代の貴族の衣装をまとっているのですが、写真のひな人形、衣装はそうだけれども、髪型がみんなおかっぱ頭でかわいらしいです。
七段飾り ひな人形上三段


When I visited my grandmother's, her hina dolls were also on display. They are flat.
祖母の家にも昔ながらのひな人形が飾ってありましたが、こちらはなんと平面です。
granma's flat hina



The origin of hina dolls is nagashi-bina(Lit. floating down dolls) and people used to floated nagashi-bina down the river having transferred bad lucks to the dolls. Dolls in Japanese mean "the shape of human". Today, there is a theory that people transfer bad lucks to the dolls by touching them when they put them on display.
昔は流し雛といって、災厄を人形(ひとがた)に移して川などに流したそうですが、今は人形を飾るときにそれに触れることで災厄を人形に移す、という説もあるようです。

There is another secular theory. If you keep your hina dolls on display so long after March 3rd, the Doll Festival, the girl(s) in the house will get to slow to marry in future. You might often hear this;)
また、人形をひな祭りの3月3日が過ぎた後、すぐに片付けずに出したままにすると、その家の女の子はなかなか「片付かない」つまり、嫁に行かないという俗説もまかり通っていたりします。

It snows today, too, although we are already in March. I hope it will be warmer soon.
3月に入ったというのに今日も雪が降っています。はやく暖かくなると良いですね。

Tanabata, or Star Festival in Hakodate is two days away!/七夕まであと二日

On July 7th, in Hakodate, you can see children singing cheerfully here and there in the evening. They sing at the entrance of nearby houses, “Let’s put wish strips on bamboo branches and celebrate merrily! Would you give me a candle?” and are given some snacks. This transaction can be happen at some shops, even in convenience stores. Some wear yukata, or light summer cotton kimono and hold lanterns.

As this festival gets nearer, I feel happy and sometimes have a lively talk with others who share the same experience.

If you want to know more about this festival, please refer to the following entry I wrote last year.
http://mukur.blog66.fc2.com/blog-entry-10.html

This photo is a bamboo grass with ornaments, a sign for children.
bamboo grass1

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Akiko

Author:Akiko
Akiko lives in a city next to Hakodate and loves to drive around Hakodate and surrounding area. I hope people who visit or live in the Southwest area of Hokkaido come to love the area, too.
函館の隣町在住で道南エリアのドライブ大好きAkikoです。道南を訪れたり、住んでいる人が土地を好きになってくれたらなぁ、と思います。

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