A Shintō ceremony that is not only time-honored, but also popular
Since the very old days Shintō dieties are being worshipped in Japan, whenever the wellbeing or success of people or organisations is invoked. Ceremonies for rich fishing results or an abundant harvest are among them just as well.
One of the most traditional ceremonies was held last Saturday (as every 11th of Febuary) in Tōkyō’s Itabashi district (板橋区 / いたばしく) – and once again it was the OAG (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Natur- und Völkerkunde Ostasiens) and its expert member, Luise Kahlow, that made the visit to this ceremony possible and ever so much more worth it:
The Ta’asobi (田遊び / たあそび) at the Kitano Shrine (北野神社 / きたのじんじゃ) (Tokumaru Kitano-Schrein / 徳丸北野神社 / とくまるきたのじんじゃ, to be exact) in Tokumaru Rokuchōme (徳丸六丁目 / とくまるろくちょうめ).
This almost 1 ½ hours lasting ceremony that became a registered cultural asset in 2007, has been performed for hundreds of years (the shrine itself is able to look back on a history of more than 1000 years). And if you witness these ritual actions, you may just as well gain the impression that these ceremonies haven’t been changed ever since.
The Ta’asobi consists of various acts/ceremonies that are designed to ask the dieties of harvest for their help:
- Chōho shirabe (町歩調べ):
Making sure of the rice fields’ locations and counting them
- Ta uchi (田打ち):
Preparing the paddy
- Ta unai (田うない):
Ploughing the paddy
- Shiro kaki (代掻き):
Ploughing and watering the paddy
- Tane maki (種まき):
Sowing the seeds (that was surely the longes ritual)
- Tori oi (鳥追い):
Driving the birds away (using the sasara (簓 / ささら)-ratchet)
- Haru ta unai (春田うない):
Ploughing the furrows
During a brief intermission, everyone on stage and in the audience was invited to a cup of “sacred sake” (o-miki / お神酒 / おみき).
- Ueda shiro kaki (植田代掻き):
Ploughing and watering the paddies with a cow; to show gratitude for the cow’s effords, air is fanned at it
- Saotome (早乙女):
Four planting girls with blades of rice (symbol: neelde- and plum twig); the girls are being thrown in the air (as a symbol for healthy grow of the girls as well as the rice plants)
- Tarōji Yasume (田郎次やすめ):
Man and paunched woman entertain the audience with jokes
- Koma (駒):
- Shishi (獅子):
The lion is supposed to drive away harmful insects and to bless the paddies
- Hamaya (はま矢):
Man with spears
- Ine kari (稲刈り):
Mowing the rice
- Inemura tsumi (家むら積み):
Arranging the sheaf
Have a look at the 12 minutes of cut together of the festive ceremony – and don’t be sad, if you cannot distinguish all the different rituals. But you’ll surely realise that the “saotome” is the part that provides most fun for the children.
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