Monday, March 12, 2007


I went to the spring Daikoku-sama festival at Sugimoto shrine last Sunday. Yes, it's the same shrine that I posted about in the autumn of 2005 when the autumn Daikoku-sama festival was held there. The event then was gods' excursion to a nearby river bank. This time, the festival was dedicated to Daikoku-sama, God of wealth widely known and loved in Japan.

People praying at Sugimoto shrine and a young guy holding up a sign
saying, "Watch your step, and watch out for pickpockets."

There were many omikuji slips (paper fortunes) tied to the branches as in this photo. It is said that by doing so, the good prophecy written on the strips will come true as well as your wishes.

Colorful paper ornaments were all over the place at the shrine. Some were very traditional, and others looked pretty modern.

People come to this festival to pray for the happiness and prosperity, and buy the lucky ornament called fuku-dawara 福俵 which can be literally translated as "lucky straw-bag." Actually in this case it is a bamboo branch decorated with luck-bringing ornaments such as a small straw bag, ancient coin and a paper strip with lucky words.

Many other good-luck charms were being sold here and there at the shrine.

One of the main attractions of the day was this lion dance. The story seemed to have been the same as the performance I saw in 2005 at their autumn festival: The lion took away the drunk man's lucky bamboo branch. The man was scared at first but with the help of sake (and god's power, maybe?) , got courageous and finally took the bamboo branch back and calmed down the lion.

The moves of the drunk man were just too funny. I think the same person plays this role in both autumn and spring festivals at this shrine every year.

Another attraction was Kagura dance performance by two gods. It was performed indoor but the audience was able to see it from outside, too.

Hina-ningyo (dolls we display on girls' doll festival on Mar. 3rd) were still on display to contribute to the festive atmosphere of the day. The room behind the stage was full of traditional drawings and paper works for visitors to see.

This photo shows the autumn festival of this shrine in olden days (in feudal era, I think) recreated by paper craft. An amazingly elaborate work, don't you think?

The Kagura dance was performed by two men wearing masks: one was supposed to be God of rice and the other was God of wealth. You see one of them in the photo is holding a bunch of rice stalks and the other is holding a hammer? The story goes like this (IIRC): One day the two gods meet each other and start competing in the magic skills. God of rice says "Hey, I can grow rice well and bring an abundant harvest. " God of wealth says, "Oh, I can bring money and treasure with the strokes of this magic hammer." Then their magic competition is described by the dance. Two gods keep turning round and round, waving the fans.

Eventually, the God of rice goes off stage, and the God of wealth, holding both the rice and hammer in his hands, blesses everyone with good luck and big laughter.

After the dance, Daikoku-sama, the God of wealth, gave each of the audience a folded paper with a five-yen coin enclosed inside. Five yen is pronounced "go-en" in Japanese, thus it is associated with a Japanese word, goen ご縁 which means "relation" or "connection." So, this means that now I have a relation or connection to the happiness and laughter provided by the god of wealth! :)

The dance was accompanied by a little narration, which ended in a pretty much edifying tone. It went like, "But you can't get Daikoku-sama's blessing for free. There are things you should do to receive the blessing. Those are, to be diligent and always do your best at work, worship your ancestors, respect your parents and love your family members. Then Daikoku-sama will bless you with happiness and wealth." Yeah, a cliche. But when I saw an old woman standing next to me nodding to these words with a happy smile on her face, I honestly felt touched.

Isn't it wonderful if you could keep such simple, real basic teachings as the basis of your life, and live an ordinary life happily contented? But we know -- even the old woman herself knows -- that it's nothing but an ideal. Real life is not that simple.

Hope your days will be filled with a lot of laughter ;)

Maybe that's why our ancestors developed these traditional activities or rituals so that we can keep coming back to the basics -- the simple basics, the importance of which does not change over time. I don't know... Maybe, maybe not.

posted by obachan, 3/12/2007 09:37:00 AM


wow! Looks like a great festival! I found that Canada although being known for its multiculturalism do not share nor celebrate other culture's festivities. Perhaps except St.Patricks day haha

The bamboo lucky charm with the masks on it is looking a little freaky though..

Thanks for sharing this and good luck on the surgery! it's only 7 weeks away.
commented by Anonymous Ireney, 3/26/2007 11:49 AM  
Hi Ireney,
Haha. You thought they were a bit freaky? To me the mask of Daikoku-sama (god of wealth) looked a bit scary from time to time.

Yeah, seven more weeks.
You know what? I haven't done any sit-ups for a l-o-n-g time, being scared of possible ovarian torsion, so looks like the fat layer under my abdominal skin is getting thicker and thicker now...
commented by Blogger obachan, 3/30/2007 11:27 AM  

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