Monday, March 28, 2005


On Saturday we went north a bit to see the Hira Hakko, a local festival we hadn't yet made it to that's been happening every Spring around this time for 1500 years or so, held for the safety of all who live and work on Lake Biwa and its shores. Priests from a distant affiliated downlake temple, a dozen yamabushi, a squad of shakuhachi players and several beautiful young women in kimono come sailing to Omimaiko, along the way throwing paper prayers on the wind and ritually pouring other blessed waters into the Lake. After they land at Omimaiko they walk the long road, stopping to pray at a local statue of Kannon.

From there they and the whole mob of us that had gathered by then, everyone Lake-related and their families and friends, relatives, tourists, mobs of photographers, walked out into the pine groves that cover the central axis of the small and anciently famous peninsula, toward loudening multidrum music pounding like the theme drums from The Seven Samurai.

Along the way the crowd discovered a group of young female art college students all dressed up in fantastic costumes who were quietly and privately (or so they had expected) making some kind of strange art/music video on the beach when suddenly this mob came along and they were at once the center of attention from a growing throng, being asked what they were up to by everyone, who thought they were some new strange and unsettling part of the ancient ceremony - which the poor girls repeatedly and heatedly denied - they were so embarrassed at being seen dressed so strangely out here and doing these odd things, they had utterly not anticipated any vast swarm of observers to descend on them, it put a major cramp in their artistic intentions.

They finally tried to hide under a tarp from the photographers and crowds streaming steadily toward the beach out on the point where, in a big square made sacred by bamboo poles strung with rice straw rope stood a large pile of green cedar boughs that, after extended ceremonial praying and mythodramatizing, the yamabushi set afire; the singing and music went on, wafting across the Lake with the prayers, like the smoke...

There was a generous variety of weather to go along with the intensity of it all, which is as it should be, the weather being a big factor in comprehensive Lake safety: rain was there in bursts, and wind was steady, there was lakespray and sun and scuds of mist, some wannabe snowflakes showed up and anything else that can be called weather was likely around there somewhere.

Folks from way young to max elderly in all states of health huddled around, kids running free and taking part in the drumming, folks in wheelchairs there to get some of the sacred smoke unto themselves to cure their ills. And it seems to work, for since then I've been feeling better in all respects.

1 comment:

Gabi Greve, World Kigo Database said...

Thanks for the details.
I got the ceremony here now

Gabi from Okayama