[:it]Japan Folklore: Versailles no bara, il manga best-seller[:en]Japan Folklore: Versailles no bara, the best-selling manga[:ja]Japan Folklore: Versailles no bara, the best-selling manga[:]

[:it]

photo credit: nefariousreviews.com

Nel 1972, Riyoko Ikeda creò quello che è divenuto il manga e, successivamente l’anime, più famoso di tutti i tempi: “Versailles no Bara” (ベルサイユのばら, Le rose di Versailles, conosciuto in Italia come Lady Oscar). La talentuosa mangaka, il cui stile minuzioso ed elegante è arrivato a distinguersi fino ad essere considerata la Maestra degli Shōjo, dovette affrontare il proprio editore prima di vedere la sua idea pubblicata. L’Editore era infatti convinto che un manga biografico con protagonista Maria Antonietta potesse annoiare i lettori. Riyoko Ikeda si impegnò a dimostrare il contrario e nel maggio del 1972 la prima puntata di “Versailles no Bara” apparve sul numero 21 di Shukan Margaret edito da Shūeisha, con cadenza settimanale per un totale di 82 episodi conclusosi nel 1973.

Tra il 1972 ed il 1974 furono vendute 15 milioni di copie, eleggendo così Riyoko Ikeda come la regina dei manga storici.

photo credit: supereva.it

La storia delle rose di Versailles e del vento che le travolse

Negli ultimi anni dell'Ancien Régime la giovane Maria Antonietta d'Austria venne promessa in sposa al delfino di Francia Luigi Augusto, nipote di Luigi XV ma suo cugino il duca d'Orleans tramava per ucciderlo ed usurpare il trono. A capo della Guardia Reale c’era Oscar François de Jarjayes, una giovane donna nobile allevata dal padre, il Generale De Jarjayes, come se fosse un maschio in quanto egli desiderava un erede uomo. Al fianco di Oscar c’era un giovane attendente, André Grandier, nipote della governante della famiglia Jarjayes, a cui il Generale aveva affidato il compito di servire e proteggere la figlia. Ricoprendo il suo ruolo, Oscar sventò molti complotti che miravano ad uccidere i due principi, portandola quindi ad essere stimata e considerata un’amica da Maria Antonietta. La capricciosa futura regina, scortata da Oscar ad un ballo di Corte, incontrò il conte svedese Hans Axel von Fersen, del quale entrambe le donne si innamorano.

Alla morte del Re, Maria Antonietta e Luigi XVI divennero sovrani di Francia e, poiché le maldicenze su una presunta relazione tra Fersen e la Regina non tardarono a diffondersi, il conte abbandonò il paese per evitare lo scandalo e si arruolò a sostegno dei rivoluzionari d'America. Maria Antonietta, sempre più infelice e sola, si lasciò così influenzare dalla contessa di Polignac, una donna ambiziosa che diventò la sua favorita e spinse la regina a scialacquare denaro in frivolezze. Dopo alcuni anni il conte di Fersen fece ritorno in Francia e inevitabilmente si riavvicinò a Maria Antonietta che, non riuscendo a controllare i propri sentimenti, fu sul punto di fa scoppiare uno scandalo. Nuovamente il conte lasciò il paese e la regina, a seguito della nascita degli eredi al trono, decise di allontanarsi dalla vita di corte e ritirarsi con i suoi bambini nel Petit Trianon, suscitando l'astio dell'alta nobiltà. Nel frattempo scoppiò il celebre “Affare della Collana” che che gettò le prime ombre sulla reputazione pubblica della regina. Poco dopo, Fersen tornò dall’America e durante un ballo a Corte, Oscar si presentò in incognito vestita per la prima ed unica volta da donna ma, danzando con Fersen, capì che non avrebbe mai potuto sostituire la regina nel cuore del conte svedese e decise che probabilmente era meglio vivere per sempre come un uomo. A seguito del caso del Cavaliere Nero e l’ulteriore tentativo di gettare discredito sulla famiglia reale agli occhi della nobiltà, Oscar abbandonò il comando della Guardia Reale ottenendo dalla regina l’incarico di comandante del reggimento delle Guardie Francesi di Parigi Con lei rimase ancora Andrè che, nonostante fu rifiutato da Oscar dopo averle dichiarato il suo amore, volle restare comunque al suo fianco.

Il Generale Jarjayes si rese conto di aver fatto un errore a destinare la figlia alla carriera militare e iniziò a desiderare che ella si sposasse, così il secondo di Oscar nella Guardia Reale, Girondel, le fece la proposta di matrimonio, ma Oscar non accettò, preferendo i suoi nuovi soldati e i tentativi per guadagnarsi il loro rispetto. La rivoluzione francese era alle porte. Oscar, dopo aver fatto chiarezza nel suo cuore e aver capito di amare Andrè, si schierò con lui dalla parte del popolo e morirono insieme durante i tumulti della presa della Bastiglia il 14 luglio 1789. Gli anni della rivoluzione travolsero Maria Antonietta, fino alla sua esecuzione sulla ghigliottina il 16 ottobre 1793.

photo credit: romaspettacolo.net

Una sola serie non basta!

Dodici anni dopo la serie madre, Riyoko Ikeda decise di pubblicare una miniserie di 4 episodi intitolati Versailles no bara gaiden (ベルサイユのばら外伝, Le rose di Versailles - storie gotiche) i cui protagonisti sono Oscar, Andrè e la piccola Loulou de La Lorencie, nipotina di Oscar. Gli episodi narrati si collocano tra i volumi 7 e 8 del manga originario. Nel 1987 apparve anche Eikō no Napoleon-Eroika (栄光のナポレオン-エロイカ, Il glorioso Napoleone - Eroika), il seguito ufficiale, il cui titolo "Eroika" fa riferimento alla terza sinfonia di Ludwig van Beethoven, dedicata a Napoleone. In questi 12 volumi si narrano le vicende di Napoleone subito dopo la Rivoluzione Francese: il suo impero, la campagna italiana, la campagna d'Egitto, la battaglia del Nilo, il colpo di Stato del 18 brumaio e l'invasione francese della Russia. Nel corso della narrazione alcune dei personaggi già conosciuti riaffioreranno, ma solamente attraverso dei flashback.

Nel 2006, Riyoko Ikeda ha deciso di prendere nuovamente in mano la matita per realizzare “Berubara Kids”: una divertente rivisitazione in strisce colorate in cui i personaggi di Versailles no Bara riappaiono in versione "chibi" nelle scene chiave. La piccola parodia è stata pubblicata settimanalmente su "Be", supplemento del quotidiano "Asahi Shimbun”.

photo credit: pinterest.it

Le Rose muoiono in bellezza

Il fascino di Versailles no Bara spinse molti musicisti a reinterpretare la celebre “Bara wa utsukushiku chiru“ sigla originale dell’Anime, ma Riyoko Ikeda riconobbe con licenza la versione dei LAREINE. Il primo CD uscì il 1° ottobre 1998 e in numero limitato di copie: solamente 500 con numero di serie di cui i primi 4 erano quelli di proprietà dei componenti del gruppo. Fortunatamente nel 1998 venne riedito e Bara wa utsukushiku chiru divenne ufficialmente il quarto singolo della band. Il 9 febbraio del 2000 uscì l’edizione CD di maggior pregio contenente esclusivamente due tracce audio nelle quali Riyoko Ikeda stessa partecipò in qualità di cantante soprano e ne curò la veste grafica, disegnando anche i costumi del gruppo per il video musicale.[:en]

photo credit: nefariousreviews.com

In 1972, Riyoko Ikeda created what became the manga and, later, the most famous anime of all time: "Versailles no Bara" (ベルサイユのばら, The Roses of Versailles, known in Italy as Lady Oscar). The talented mangaka, whose meticulous and elegant style has come to stand out and be considered the Shōjo Teacher, had to face her own publisher before seeing her published idea. The publisher was in fact convinced that a biographical manga starring Marie Antoinette could bore readers. Riyoko Ikeda undertook to prove otherwise and in May 1972 the first instalment of "Versailles no Bara" appeared on Shukan Margaret issue number 21, published by Shūeisha, on a weekly basis for a total of 82 episodes ended in 1973.

Between 1972 and 1974, 15 million copies were sold, thus electing Riyoko Ikeda as the queen of the historical manga.

photo credit: supereva.it

The history of the roses of Versailles and the wind that swept over them

In the last years of the Ancien Régime, the young Marie Antoinette of Austria was promised to marry the French dolphin, Luigi Augusto, nephew of Louis XV but his cousin, the Duke of Orleans plotted to kill him and usurp the throne. At the head of the Royal Guard was Oscar François de Jarjayes, a young noblewoman raised by her father, General De Jarjayes, as if she were a boy because he wanted a male heir. Alongside Oscar was a young attendant, André Grandier, nephew of the housekeeper of the Jarjayes family, to whom the General had entrusted the task of serving and protecting her. Covering her role, Oscar foiled many plots that aimed to kill the two princes, thus leading to being esteemed and considered a friend by Marie Antoinette. The capricious future queen, escorted by Oscar at a ball court, met the Swedish count Hans Axel von Fersen, of whom both women fall in love.

At the death of the King, Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI became sovereigns of France and, since the slander on a presumed relationship between Fersen and the Queen did not take long to spread, the count abandoned the country to avoid scandal and enlisted in support of the revolutionaries of America. Marie Antoinette, more and more unhappy and lonely, allowed herself to be influenced by the Countess of Polignac, an ambitious woman who became her favourite and urged the queen to squander money in frivolity. After a few years, the Count of Fersen returned to France and inevitably went back to Marie Antoinette, who, unable to control her feelings, was on the verge of a scandal. Once again the count left the country and the queen, following the birth of the heirs to the throne, decided to move away from the life of the court and retire with her children in the Petit Trianon, arousing the hatred of the high nobility. In the meantime, the famous "Deal of the Necklace" broke out, which threw the first shadows on the public reputation of the queen. Shortly after, Fersen returned from America and during a court ball, Oscar showed up in disguise dressed for the first and only time as a woman but, dancing with Fersen, realized that she could never replace the queen in the heart of the Swedish count and she decided it was probably better to live forever like a man. Following the case of the Black Knight and the further attempt to discredit the royal family in the eyes of the nobility, Oscar abandoned the command of the Royal Guard obtaining from the queen the post of commander of the French Guards regiment of Paris. André, despite being rejected by Oscar after declaring her love, he remained by her side anyway.

General Jarjayes realized that he had made a mistake in allocating his daughter to a military career and began to wish that she would marry, so the second of Oscar in the Royal Guard, Girondel, made her a marriage proposal, but Oscar did not accept, preferring her new soldiers and attempts to earn their respect. The French revolution was at the door: Oscar, who understood to love Andrè, sided with him on the side of the people and together died during the riots of the storming of the Bastille July 14, 1789. The years of the revolution lasted until Marie Antoinette’s execution on the guillotine on October 16, 1793.

photo credit: romaspettacolo.net

One series is not enough!

Twelve years after the mother series, Riyoko Ikeda decided to publish a 4-episode miniseries entitled Versailles no bara gaiden (The Roses of Versailles - Gothic Stories) whose protagonists are Oscar, Andrè and the little Loulou de La Lorencie, Oscar's niece. The episodes narrated are placed between volumes 7 and 8 of the original manga. In 1987 Eikō no Napoleon-Eroika (栄光のナポレオン-エロイカ, The glorious Napoleon - Heroic) also appeared as the official sequel, whose title "Eroika" refers to the third symphony of Ludwig van Beethoven, dedicated to Napoleon. These 12 volumes narrate the events of Napoleon immediately after the French Revolution: his empire, the Italian campaign, the campaign of Egypt, the battle of the Nile, the coup d'etat of the 18th Brumaire and the French invasion of Russia. in the course of the narration, some of the already known characters will reappear, but only through flashbacks.

In 2006, Riyoko Ikeda decided to take the pencil again to create "Berubara Kids": an amusing reinterpretation in coloured stripes in which the characters of Versailles no Bara reappear in "chibi" version in key scenes. The small parody was published weekly on "Be", a supplement of the newspaper "Asahi Shimbun".

photo credit: pinterest.it

Roses die in beauty

The fascination of Versailles no Bara pushed many musicians to reinterpret the famous "Bara wa utsukushiku chiru" original song of the anime, but Riyoko Ikeda recognized the LAREINE version with license. The first CD came out on October 1, 1998 and in limited number of copies: only 500 with serial number of which the first 4 were owned by the members of the group. Fortunately, in 1998 it was re-edited and Bara wa utsukushiku chiru officially became the fourth single of the band. On February 9th 2000 the most valuable CD edition was released, containing only two audio tracks in which Riyoko Ikeda herself participated as a soprano singer and took care of the graphic design, also designing the costumes of the band for the music video.[:ja]

photo credit: nefariousreviews.com

In 1972, Riyoko Ikeda created what became the manga and, later, the most famous anime of all time: "Versailles no Bara" (ベルサイユのばら, The Roses of Versailles, known in Italy as Lady Oscar). The talented mangaka, whose meticulous and elegant style has come to stand out and be considered the Shōjo Teacher, had to face her own publisher before seeing her published idea. The publisher was in fact convinced that a biographical manga starring Marie Antoinette could bore readers. Riyoko Ikeda undertook to prove otherwise and in May 1972 the first instalment of "Versailles no Bara" appeared on Shukan Margaret issue number 21, published by Shūeisha, on a weekly basis for a total of 82 episodes ended in 1973.

Between 1972 and 1974, 15 million copies were sold, thus electing Riyoko Ikeda as the queen of the historical manga.

photo credit: supereva.it

The history of the roses of Versailles and the wind that swept over them

In the last years of the Ancien Régime, the young Marie Antoinette of Austria was promised to marry the French dolphin, Luigi Augusto, nephew of Louis XV but his cousin, the Duke of Orleans plotted to kill him and usurp the throne. At the head of the Royal Guard was Oscar François de Jarjayes, a young noblewoman raised by her father, General De Jarjayes, as if she were a boy because he wanted a male heir. Alongside Oscar was a young attendant, André Grandier, nephew of the housekeeper of the Jarjayes family, to whom the General had entrusted the task of serving and protecting her. Covering her role, Oscar foiled many plots that aimed to kill the two princes, thus leading to being esteemed and considered a friend by Marie Antoinette. The capricious future queen, escorted by Oscar at a ball court, met the Swedish count Hans Axel von Fersen, of whom both women fall in love.

At the death of the King, Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI became sovereigns of France and, since the slander on a presumed relationship between Fersen and the Queen did not take long to spread, the count abandoned the country to avoid scandal and enlisted in support of the revolutionaries of America. Marie Antoinette, more and more unhappy and lonely, allowed herself to be influenced by the Countess of Polignac, an ambitious woman who became her favourite and urged the queen to squander money in frivolity. After a few years, the Count of Fersen returned to France and inevitably went back to Marie Antoinette, who, unable to control her feelings, was on the verge of a scandal. Once again the count left the country and the queen, following the birth of the heirs to the throne, decided to move away from the life of the court and retire with her children in the Petit Trianon, arousing the hatred of the high nobility. In the meantime, the famous "Deal of the Necklace" broke out, which threw the first shadows on the public reputation of the queen. Shortly after, Fersen returned from America and during a court ball, Oscar showed up in disguise dressed for the first and only time as a woman but, dancing with Fersen, realized that she could never replace the queen in the heart of the Swedish count and she decided it was probably better to live forever like a man. Following the case of the Black Knight and the further attempt to discredit the royal family in the eyes of the nobility, Oscar abandoned the command of the Royal Guard obtaining from the queen the post of commander of the French Guards regiment of Paris. André, despite being rejected by Oscar after declaring her love, he remained by her side anyway.

General Jarjayes realized that he had made a mistake in allocating his daughter to a military career and began to wish that she would marry, so the second of Oscar in the Royal Guard, Girondel, made her a marriage proposal, but Oscar did not accept, preferring her new soldiers and attempts to earn their respect. The French revolution was at the door: Oscar, who understood to love Andrè, sided with him on the side of the people and together died during the riots of the storming of the Bastille July 14, 1789. The years of the revolution lasted until Marie Antoinette’s execution on the guillotine on October 16, 1793.

photo credit: romaspettacolo.net

One series is not enough!

Twelve years after the mother series, Riyoko Ikeda decided to publish a 4-episode miniseries entitled Versailles no bara gaiden (The Roses of Versailles - Gothic Stories) whose protagonists are Oscar, Andrè and the little Loulou de La Lorencie, Oscar's niece. The episodes narrated are placed between volumes 7 and 8 of the original manga. In 1987 Eikō no Napoleon-Eroika (栄光のナポレオン-エロイカ, The glorious Napoleon - Heroic) also appeared as the official sequel, whose title "Eroika" refers to the third symphony of Ludwig van Beethoven, dedicated to Napoleon. These 12 volumes narrate the events of Napoleon immediately after the French Revolution: his empire, the Italian campaign, the campaign of Egypt, the battle of the Nile, the coup d'etat of the 18th Brumaire and the French invasion of Russia. in the course of the narration, some of the already known characters will reappear, but only through flashbacks.

In 2006, Riyoko Ikeda decided to take the pencil again to create "Berubara Kids": an amusing reinterpretation in coloured stripes in which the characters of Versailles no Bara reappear in "chibi" version in key scenes. The small parody was published weekly on "Be", a supplement of the newspaper "Asahi Shimbun".

photo credit: pinterest.it

Roses die in beauty

The fascination of Versailles no Bara pushed many musicians to reinterpret the famous "Bara wa utsukushiku chiru" original song of the anime, but Riyoko Ikeda recognized the LAREINE version with license. The first CD came out on October 1, 1998 and in limited number of copies: only 500 with serial number of which the first 4 were owned by the members of the group. Fortunately, in 1998 it was re-edited and Bara wa utsukushiku chiru officially became the fourth single of the band. On February 9th 2000 the most valuable CD edition was released, containing only two audio tracks in which Riyoko Ikeda herself participated as a soprano singer and took care of the graphic design, also designing the costumes of the band for the music video.[:]


[:it]Japan Folklore: Setsubun, come scacciare i demoni dell’inverno per accogliere la primavera[:en]Japan Folklore: Setsubun, how to drive away the demons of winter to welcome spring[:ja]Japan Folklore: Setsubun, how to drive away the demons of winter to welcome spring[:]

[:it]


photo credits: pinterest.it

La cultura tradizionale giapponese è sempre stata caratterizzata da una costante ed amorevole osservazione del mondo naturale, delle sue manifestazioni e dei suoi cicli stagionali. Non deve quindi meravigliare l’attenzione riservata alla primavera, lo speciale momento in cui la natura risveglia in tutte le sue creature la necessità del rinnovamento.

Questa stagione è celebrata in Giappone con l’haru matsuri (春祭, festival di primavera), un insieme di eventi il cui inizio è segnato dalla ricorrenza di Setsubun (節分). Nel tradizionale calendario lunisolare giapponese, infatti, ogni cambio di stagione è introdotto da un giorno chiamato, appunto, setsubun (letteralmente “divisione delle stagioni”). Il setsubun di primavera, che cade il 3 febbraio, rappresenta l’ultimo giorno dell’inverno e il giorno che precede l’inizio della nuova stagione. Segna quindi il passaggio dal “Taikan” (大寒, grande freddo) al “Risshun” (立春, primo giorno di primavera) ed è perciò il momento più propizio per una speciale “pulizia” dai fardelli invernali, che allontanerà gli spiriti maligni e favorirà l’ingresso della nuova energia vivificante. E’ questo il senso della tradizionale “cacciata dei demoni” che ha luogo in questo giorno attraverso diversi riti ed usanze.


photo credits: pinimg.com

Antichi rituali e divertimento per famiglie

Il rituale più famoso è senza dubbio il mamemaki (豆撒き), ovvero il lancio dei fagioli di soia. In ambito domestico esso è affidato al Toshi Otoko (年男, uomo dell’anno), cioè l’uomo della famiglia del segno zodiacale dell’anno lunare entrante o in sua assenza il più anziano di casa; costui ha il compito di scacciare gli spiriti nocivi e le negatività dalla casa e dal nuovo periodo dell’anno che sta per iniziare lanciando in giro irimame (炒り豆, fagioli di soia tostati) al grido di “Oni wa soto! fuku wa uchi! (鬼は外! 福は内, “Fuori i demoni! Dentro la fortuna!”). In alternativa si possono scagliare gli irimame contro un altro membro della famiglia che interpreta la parte del demone indossando una maschera da oni (orchi del folcklore giapponese). Successivamente ogni componente della famiglia deve raccogliere e mangiare un numero di fagioli corrispondente alla propria età più uno per assicurarsi un anno di successi e buona salute (nella tradizione popolare, infatti, i demoni sono ritenuti portatori di catastrofi naturali e malattie). Scacciato l’oni, è però necessario tenere gli spiriti maligni lontani dalla casa. Per questo è possibile vedere in questo periodo dell’anno dei particolarissimi amuleti, gli Hiiragi Iwashi (柊鰯), esposti all’ingresso delle abitazioni. Si tratta di rami di agrifoglio che presentano la testa di una sardina essiccata infilzata sull’estremità, talvolta completati da pezzi di aglio o cipolla, che hanno appunto lo scopo di tenere lontani i demoni, timorosi delle spine e dell’ odore pungente emanato da questi talismani.

Si tratta in entrambi i casi di tradizioni che affondano le proprie radici nell’antichità. Al giorno d’oggi è possibile acquistare “set da Setsubun” - composti da maschere da oni e fagioli tostati - in qualsiasi conbini, ma in realtà l’usanza del mamemaki avrebbe avuto origine nel periodo Muromachi (1392-1573) e sembra essere ispirata ad un’antichissima leggenda, la cui trama viene tuttora rappresentata in forma di pantomima nel tempio di Mibu-dera a Kyoto. Qui il kyogen (antica forma teatrale giapponese) intitolato “Setsubun” viene replicato più volte nel corso della giornata e si dice che basti assistere ad esso per essere purificati da ogni spirito negativo o malvagio. La sua trama ricalca il racconto folkloristico che narra di un orco il quale, sotto sembianze umane, si reca un giorno a far visita ad una vedova. Grazie al suo martello magico, l’orco confeziona un bellissimo kimono, che attira l’attenzione della vedova. Desiderosa di impossessarsi non solo del kimono ma anche del martello magico, essa decide di farlo ubriacare per poterglieli rubare entrambi. L’orco, però, accortosi del furto, rivela la propria natura demoniaca ed attacca la donna, che per difendersi gli scaglia contro la prima cosa che trova a portata di mano: un pugno di fagioli di soia. L’oni, ferito ma di nuovo in possesso dei suoi beni, fugge lasciando la vedova sana e salva e forse un po’ più saggia.


photo credits: toyokeizai.net

Saper guardare nella giusta direzione

Un’usanza di origini più recenti, nata ad Osaka ma successivamente diffusasi nel resto del paese, è invece quella legata all’ehōmaki (恵方巻, rotolo della direzione fortunata). In questo caso, per assicurarsi che la buona sorte sia al nostro fianco nell’anno che sta per iniziare, è necessario mangiare uno speciale rotolo di sushi in un’unica soluzione, senza interruzioni ed in silenzio, rivolti nella direzione fortunata dell’anno. L’impresa è meno semplice di quel che può sembrare, considerando che l’ehōmaki è molto più spesso di un comune sushi roll (dovendo contenere sette ingredienti per propiziarsi i sette dei della fortuna) ed è lungo 20 centimetri. Non vale mangiarlo tagliato in pezzi, perché così facendo si taglierebbe anche la fortuna. Per compiere correttamente il rituale è necessario quindi armarsi di concentrazione, determinazione e di una bussola precisa. Per chi fosse interessato a sperimentare questa usanza, gli ingredienti più comuni da procurarsi per la farcitura sono cetriolo, surimi, salmone, tonno, anago (anguilla di mare), tamagoyaki (omelette giapponese), strisce di kanpyo essiccate e condite (zucca giapponese) e funghi shiitake, oltre naturalmente al riso e all’alga nori, mentre la direzione fortunata per il 2019 è Est-NordEst.

photo credits: shinsenhino.com

Templi in festa

Il Setsubun può essere celebrato in un ambiente domestico o comunque in una dimensione privata, con parenti ed amici, ma è anche e soprattutto una ricorrenza da vivere in comunità. Ad esempio nelle scuole vengono spesso organizzati momenti di ricreazione per i bambini, che indossano maschere da oni o si divertono a dare la caccia ad adulti travestiti da demoni, rincorrendoli e scagliando loro fagioli. Ma è in particolare nei templi che è possibile vivere la dimensione collettiva della festa, partecipando agli eventi appositamente realizzati per questa giornata. Primo fra tutti naturalmente il mamemaki, effettuato dai monaci che dall’alto di appositi palchi lanciano fagioli di soia sulla folla radunata per l’evento. In alcuni templi vengono organizzati più turni per questo rituale, riservandone alcuni speciali ai bambini, che oltre ai fagioli ricevono dolci o piccoli doni. Oltre ai monaci sono spesso presenti personaggi celebri, come campioni sportivi, protagonisti del mondo dello spettacolo, attori del teatro kabuki, geisha e maiko, celebrità televisive, che aggiungono una nota di attrattiva glamour ai festeggiamenti tradizionali. Tra questi ultimi vanno ricordati gli spettacoli teatrali, le diverse cerimonie di purificazione o anche le suggestive esibizioni di tiro con l’arco, in cui gli arcieri scagliano le proprie frecce contro bersagli che hanno fattezze di demoni.

Setsubun è insomma la giornata ideale per coloro che desiderano vivere in compagnia un inizio d’anno che aiuti a rinnovare le proprie energie e per le famiglie che hanno l’opportunità di trascorrere insieme un momento di allegria, cosa che ad ogni latitudine resta sempre il miglior talismano contro ogni male.[:en]


photo credits: pinterest.it

Traditional Japanese culture has always been characterized by a constant and loving observation of the natural world, its manifestations and its seasonal cycles. Therefore, the attention given to spring, the special moment when nature awakens in all its creatures the necessity of renewal, must not marvel.

This season is celebrated in Japan with the haru matsuri (春祭, spring festival), a set of events whose beginning is marked by the occurrence of Setsubun (節 分). In the traditional Japanese lunisolar calendar, in fact, every change of season is introduced by a day called, indeed, setsubun (literally "division of the seasons"). Spring setsubun, which falls on 3 February, represents the last day of winter and the day before the start of the new season. It marks the transition from "Taikan" (大寒, big cold) to "Risshun" (立春, first day of spring) and is therefore the most favorable moment for a special "cleaning" from winter burdens, which will drive away evil spirits and favor the entrance of the new life-giving energy. This is the meaning of the traditional "demon expulsion" that takes place on this day through different rituals and customs.


photo credits: pinimg.com

Ancient rituals and family fun

The most famous ritual is undoubtedly the mamemaki (豆 撒 き), which is the launch of soy beans. In the domestic sphere it is entrusted to Toshi Otoko (年 男, man of the year), that is the man of the family of the zodiacal sign of the lunar year entering or in his absence the oldest of the house. He has the task of driving out the harmful spirits and negativities from the house and the new year that is about to start by throwing around irimame (炒 り 豆, toasted soy beans) to the cry of "Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi! (鬼は外! 福は内, "Outside the demons! Inside fortune!"). In alternative, he can hurl the beans at another member of the family who plays the part of the demon wearing a mask of oni (Japanese folklore ogres). Subsequently, each member of the family must collect and eat a number of beans corresponding to their age plus one to ensure a year of success and good health (in the popular tradition, in fact, the demons are considered carriers of natural disasters and diseases).
When the oni is expelled, it is necessary to keep the evil spirits away from the house. For this reason it is possible to see in this period of the year some very special amulets, the Hiiragi Iwashi (柊 鰯), exposed at the entrance of the houses. These are holly branches that have the head of a dried sardine skewered on the end, sometimes complemented by pieces of garlic or onion, which have the purpose of keeping demons away, scared by the thorns and the pungent odor emanating from these talismans.

In both cases it is a tradition that has its roots in antiquity. Nowadays it is possible to buy "Setsubun sets" - made of oni masks and roasted beans - in any combini, but in reality the mamemaki custom would have originated in the Muromachi period (1392-1573) and seems to be inspired to an ancient legend, whose plot is still represented in the form of pantomime in the temple of Mibu-dera in Kyoto. Here the kyogen (ancient Japanese theatrical form) titled "Setsubun" is repeated several times during the day and it is said that it is sufficient to watch it to be purified by any negative or evil spirit. Its plot follows the folk tale that tells of an ogre who, in human form, goes one day to visit a widow. Thanks to its magic hammer, the ogre makes a beautiful kimono, which attracts the widow's attention. Eager to take possession not only of the kimono but also of the magic hammer, she decides to get him drunk to be able to steal them both. The ogre, however, aware of the theft, reveals his demonic nature and attacks the woman, who defends herself with the first thing that is within reach: a handful of soy beans. The oni, wounded but again in possession of his goods, flees leaving the widow safe and sound and perhaps a little wiser.


photo credits: toyokeizai.net

Knowing how to look in the right direction

A tradition of more recent origins, born in Osaka but later spread to the rest of the country, is instead linked to the ehōmaki (恵 方 巻, scroll of lucky direction). In this case, to ensure that the good luck is on our side in the year that is about to begin, it is necessary to eat a special sushi roll in a single solution, without interruptions and in silence, facing the lucky direction of the year. The act is less simple than it may seem, considering that the ehōmaki is much more often than a common sushi roll (having to contain seven ingredients to propitiate the seven gods of luck) and is 20 centimeters long. It is not worth eating it cut into pieces, because doing so would also cut luck. To perform the ritual correctly, it is therefore necessary to arm yourself with concentration, determination and a precise compass. For those interested in experimenting with this custom, the most common ingredients to obtain for the filling are cucumber, surimi, salmon, tuna, anago (sea eel), tamagoyaki (Japanese omelette), dried kanpyo strips and seasoned (Japanese pumpkin) and shiitake mushrooms, as well as rice and nori seaweed, while the lucky direction for 2019 is East-North East.

photo credits: shinsenhino.com

Festive temples

The Setsubun can be celebrated in a domestic environment or at least in a private dimension, with relatives and friends, but it is also and above all a recurrence to be lived in community. For example, schools often organize moments of recreation for children, who wear oni masks or have fun chasing adults dressed as demons while hurling beans against them. But it is especially in the temples that it is possible to experience the collective dimension of the party, participating in the events specially created for this day. First of all, of course, the mamemaki, carried out by the monks who throw soy beans from the top of the stages on the crowd gathered for the event. In some temples more shifts are organized for this ritual, reserving some special ones for children, who in addition to the beans receive sweets or small gifts. In addition to the monks, celebrities are often present, such as sports champions, personalities of the entertainment world, actors of the kabuki theater, geisha and maiko, television celebrities, who add a note of attractive glamor to traditional festivities. Among the latter we must remember the theatrical performances, the various purification ceremonies or even the striking archery performances, in which the archers throw their arrows at targets that have demon-like features.

In short, Setsubun is the ideal day for those who wish to live in company a start of the year that helps to renew their energies and for families who have the opportunity to spend a moment of joy together, something that always remains the best talisman against all evil at every latitude.[:ja]


photo credits: pinterest.it

Traditional Japanese culture has always been characterized by a constant and loving observation of the natural world, its manifestations and its seasonal cycles. Therefore, the attention given to spring, the special moment when nature awakens in all its creatures the necessity of renewal, must not marvel.

This season is celebrated in Japan with the haru matsuri (春祭, spring festival), a set of events whose beginning is marked by the occurrence of Setsubun (節 分). In the traditional Japanese lunisolar calendar, in fact, every change of season is introduced by a day called, indeed, setsubun (literally "division of the seasons"). Spring setsubun, which falls on 3 February, represents the last day of winter and the day before the start of the new season. It marks the transition from "Taikan" (大寒, big cold) to "Risshun" (立春, first day of spring) and is therefore the most favorable moment for a special "cleaning" from winter burdens, which will drive away evil spirits and favor the entrance of the new life-giving energy. This is the meaning of the traditional "demon expulsion" that takes place on this day through different rituals and customs.


photo credits: pinimg.com

Ancient rituals and family fun

The most famous ritual is undoubtedly the mamemaki (豆 撒 き), which is the launch of soy beans. In the domestic sphere it is entrusted to Toshi Otoko (年 男, man of the year), that is the man of the family of the zodiacal sign of the lunar year entering or in his absence the oldest of the house. He has the task of driving out the harmful spirits and negativities from the house and the new year that is about to start by throwing around irimame (炒 り 豆, toasted soy beans) to the cry of "Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi! (鬼は外! 福は内, "Outside the demons! Inside fortune!"). In alternative, he can hurl the beans at another member of the family who plays the part of the demon wearing a mask of oni (Japanese folklore ogres). Subsequently, each member of the family must collect and eat a number of beans corresponding to their age plus one to ensure a year of success and good health (in the popular tradition, in fact, the demons are considered carriers of natural disasters and diseases).
When the oni is expelled, it is necessary to keep the evil spirits away from the house. For this reason it is possible to see in this period of the year some very special amulets, the Hiiragi Iwashi (柊 鰯), exposed at the entrance of the houses. These are holly branches that have the head of a dried sardine skewered on the end, sometimes complemented by pieces of garlic or onion, which have the purpose of keeping demons away, scared by the thorns and the pungent odor emanating from these talismans.

In both cases it is a tradition that has its roots in antiquity. Nowadays it is possible to buy "Setsubun sets" - made of oni masks and roasted beans - in any combini, but in reality the mamemaki custom would have originated in the Muromachi period (1392-1573) and seems to be inspired to an ancient legend, whose plot is still represented in the form of pantomime in the temple of Mibu-dera in Kyoto. Here the kyogen (ancient Japanese theatrical form) titled "Setsubun" is repeated several times during the day and it is said that it is sufficient to watch it to be purified by any negative or evil spirit. Its plot follows the folk tale that tells of an ogre who, in human form, goes one day to visit a widow. Thanks to its magic hammer, the ogre makes a beautiful kimono, which attracts the widow's attention. Eager to take possession not only of the kimono but also of the magic hammer, she decides to get him drunk to be able to steal them both. The ogre, however, aware of the theft, reveals his demonic nature and attacks the woman, who defends herself with the first thing that is within reach: a handful of soy beans. The oni, wounded but again in possession of his goods, flees leaving the widow safe and sound and perhaps a little wiser.


photo credits: toyokeizai.net

Knowing how to look in the right direction

A tradition of more recent origins, born in Osaka but later spread to the rest of the country, is instead linked to the ehōmaki (恵 方 巻, scroll of lucky direction). In this case, to ensure that the good luck is on our side in the year that is about to begin, it is necessary to eat a special sushi roll in a single solution, without interruptions and in silence, facing the lucky direction of the year. The act is less simple than it may seem, considering that the ehōmaki is much more often than a common sushi roll (having to contain seven ingredients to propitiate the seven gods of luck) and is 20 centimeters long. It is not worth eating it cut into pieces, because doing so would also cut luck. To perform the ritual correctly, it is therefore necessary to arm yourself with concentration, determination and a precise compass. For those interested in experimenting with this custom, the most common ingredients to obtain for the filling are cucumber, surimi, salmon, tuna, anago (sea eel), tamagoyaki (Japanese omelette), dried kanpyo strips and seasoned (Japanese pumpkin) and shiitake mushrooms, as well as rice and nori seaweed, while the lucky direction for 2019 is East-North East.

photo credits: shinsenhino.com

Festive temples

The Setsubun can be celebrated in a domestic environment or at least in a private dimension, with relatives and friends, but it is also and above all a recurrence to be lived in community. For example, schools often organize moments of recreation for children, who wear oni masks or have fun chasing adults dressed as demons while hurling beans against them. But it is especially in the temples that it is possible to experience the collective dimension of the party, participating in the events specially created for this day. First of all, of course, the mamemaki, carried out by the monks who throw soy beans from the top of the stages on the crowd gathered for the event. In some temples more shifts are organized for this ritual, reserving some special ones for children, who in addition to the beans receive sweets or small gifts. In addition to the monks, celebrities are often present, such as sports champions, personalities of the entertainment world, actors of the kabuki theater, geisha and maiko, television celebrities, who add a note of attractive glamor to traditional festivities. Among the latter we must remember the theatrical performances, the various purification ceremonies or even the striking archery performances, in which the archers throw their arrows at targets that have demon-like features.

In short, Setsubun is the ideal day for those who wish to live in company a start of the year that helps to renew their energies and for families who have the opportunity to spend a moment of joy together, something that always remains the best talisman against all evil at every latitude.[:]


Japan Folklore: Kanamara Matsuri

[:it]

Kanamara Matsuri

Photo credits: pictureasiastudio.wordpress.com

La festa del "Pene di ferro"

Il Kanamara Matsuri (かなまら祭り)  viene spesso accolto dagli stranieri come l'ennesima bizzarria del Giappone. In realtà le origini di questo festival sono molto antiche e legate alla religione shintoista.

Tutto ebbe inizio nel periodo Edo, nel 1603, età in cui la cittadina di Kawasaki era meta di viaggiatori i quali si sollazzavano nelle case da tè e, privatamente, si intrattenevano con le prostitute. Le prostitute si recavano al tempio Kanayama per pregare di non contrarre o di liberarsi dalle malattie sessualmente trasmissibili.

Esiste anche una leggenda che ruota attorno al nome del Kanamara Matsuri,  secondo la quale nella vagina di una giovane ragazza dimorava un demone dai denti aguzzi.  Qualunque uomo avesse avuto rapporto intimi con lei sarebbe stato irrimediabilmente castrato. Ne fu vittima anche il suo sposo la prima notte di nozze e la ragazza, ormai disperata, chiese aiuto ad un fabbro. L’uomo le forgiò un fallo di ferro che spezzò i denti del demone e liberò la donna dalla maledizione. Per festeggiare venne eretto un piccolo tempio shintoista nel quale viene venerato ancora oggi il fallo di ferro.

La tradizione andò persa alla fine del 1800 ma, negli anni '70, il capo sacerdote Hirohiko Nakamura decise di riportare in vita la festa perduta.

Per secoli, il Kanayama è stato un luogo in cui le coppie rivolgono una preghiera per avere un bambino,  fortuna negli affari, un dolce parto o anche solo armonia familiare.

Photo credits: matome.naver.jp

3 Mikoshi e nessuno preconcetto

Ogni anno, la prima domenica di aprile nella cittadina di Kawasaki, i sacerdoti del Kanayama Jinja organizzano il festival.

La parata si apre con una cerimonia shintoista nel santuario, dove viene distribuito del sake e del pesce fritto a tutti i visitatori come augurio di buona fortuna. Finalmente, il grande pene rosa collocato su un altare viene portato al tempio. A questo punto la parata ha effettivamente inizio guidata da tre mikoshi, ciascuno contenente un enorme fallo. Il primo svetta eretto ed è realizzato in metallo nero lucido. Il secondo è un vecchio modello in legno, antico e nodoso, ed entrambi sono trasportati dai portatori del santuario che cantano durante la processione. Il terzo invece è affidato a un gruppo joso: membri di un club di cross-dressing chiamato Elizabeth Kaikan. I suoi membri, con il loro trucco luminoso e parrucche colorate, si mostrano prepotentemente alle telecamere mentre muovono il mikoshi in aria.

Dopo la sfilata, tutti si riuniscono per godere dello street-food, dei concorsi a tema sessuale e dell’atmosfera allegra. Tra le sfide proposte c’è una gara di scultura, che ovviamente deve essere di forma fallica, o un rodeo su grossi peni rotanti. Il festival è frequentato sia da gente del posto che turisti i quali, per l'occasione, si liberano dai preconcetti e affrontano rilassati argomenti spesso oggetto di tabù. La stragrande maggioranza delle persone indossa tutto ciò che di stravagante si possa immaginare, come i nasi finti a forma di pene, mentre divorano cibi dalla stessa forma. Ci si imbatte anche in giovani donne in posa per le foto durante la loro cavalcata sulle altalene che, per l'occasione, sono peni di legno.

Il Festival rimane fedele alla sua storia di origine, onorando la consapevolezza sessuale e la prosperità della Comunità donando tutti i proventi alle organizzazioni dedicate alla ricerca sull'HIV.

Photo credits: flickr.com
[:en]

Kanamara Matsuri

Photo credits: pictureasiastudio.wordpress.com

The festival of the "Steel Phallus"

The Kanamara Matsuri (かなまら祭り) is often welcomed by foreigners as yet another quirk from Japan, but in fact, the origins of this festival are very old and they are related to Shinto religion.

It all began in the Edo period, in 1603, when the town of Kawasaki was the destination for travelers who found their enjoyment in tea houses and, in private, entertained themselves with prostitutes. Prostitutes that used to visit the Kanayama temple to pray for protection from sexually transmitted diseases.

There is also a legend that revolves around the name of the Kanamara Matsuri, according to which a demon with sharp teeth lived in the vagina of a young girl. Any man who had intimate relations with her ended up irreparably castrated. Her husband too fell victim of the demon on the first wedding night and the girl, now desperate, asked for help to a blacksmith. The man forged an iron phallus that broke the demon's teeth and freed the woman from the curse. To celebrate, a small Shinto temple was erected becoming the place where the iron phallus is still venerated today.

The tradition was lost in late 1800s but, in the 1970s, chief priest Hirohiko Nakamura decided to revive the lost festival.

For centuries, the Kanayama temple has been the place where couples pray for a child, or where to pray for luck in business, an easy delivery or simply family harmony.

Photo credits: matome.naver.jp

3 Mikoshi and no preconcept

Every year, on the first Sunday of April, priests of the Kanayama Jinja in Kawasaki organize this festival.

The parade opens up with a shinto ceremony at the shrine where sake and fried fish are distributed to all visitors as a wish for good luck. Finally, the big pink penis placed on an altar is brought to the temple. At this point, the parade actually starts following three mikoshi, each containing a huge phallus. The first one stands erect and is made of a polished black metal. The second is an old wooden one, ancient and gnarled, and both are transported by carriers of the shrine who sing along the procession. The third one is entrusted to a joso group: they are members of a cross-dressing club called Elizabeth Kaikan. Its members, with their bright make-up and colored wigs, move the mikoshi in the air preening for the cameras.

After the parade, everyone gather to enjoy street-food, sexual-themed competitions and the cheerful atmosphere. Among the proposed challenges there is the sculpture contest, with sculpture that must have a phallic shape of course, or a rodeo with a big rotating penis. The festival is attended both by locals and tourists that, for the occasion, leave aside all taboos. The great majority of people wear all sorts of extravagant things, as fake penis-noses, while eating foods of the same shape.

We can also come across young women posing for photos while riding on swings that for the occasion have the shape of wooden penises.

This Festival, still loyal to its origins, celebrates sexual awareness and the prosperity of the whole community donating all the proceeds to HIV research.

Photo credits: flickr.com
[:ja]

Kanamara Matsuri

Photo credits: pictureasiastudio.wordpress.com

The festival of the "Steel Phallus"

The Kanamara Matsuri (かなまら祭り) is often welcomed by foreigners as yet another quirk from Japan, but in fact, the origins of this festival are very old and they are related to Shinto religion.

It all began in the Edo period, in 1603, when the town of Kawasaki was the destination for travelers who found their enjoyment in tea houses and, in private, entertained themselves with prostitutes. Prostitutes that used to visit the Kanayama temple to pray for protection from sexually transmitted diseases.

There is also a legend that revolves around the name of the Kanamara Matsuri, according to which a demon with sharp teeth lived in the vagina of a young girl. Any man who had intimate relations with her ended up irreparably castrated. Her husband too fell victim of the demon on the first wedding night and the girl, now desperate, asked for help to a blacksmith. The man forged an iron phallus that broke the demon's teeth and freed the woman from the curse. To celebrate, a small Shinto temple was erected becoming the place where the iron phallus is still venerated today.

The tradition was lost in late 1800s but, in the 1970s, chief priest Hirohiko Nakamura decided to revive the lost festival.

For centuries, the Kanayama temple has been the place where couples pray for a child, or where to pray for luck in business, an easy delivery or simply family harmony.

Photo credits: matome.naver.jp

3 Mikoshi and no preconcept

Every year, on the first Sunday of April, priests of the Kanayama Jinja in Kawasaki organize this festival.

The parade opens up with a shinto ceremony at the shrine where sake and fried fish are distributed to all visitors as a wish for good luck. Finally, the big pink penis placed on an altar is brought to the temple. At this point, the parade actually starts following three mikoshi, each containing a huge phallus. The first one stands erect and is made of a polished black metal. The second is an old wooden one, ancient and gnarled, and both are transported by carriers of the shrine who sing along the procession. The third one is entrusted to a joso group: they are members of a cross-dressing club called Elizabeth Kaikan. Its members, with their bright make-up and colored wigs, move the mikoshi in the air preening for the cameras.

After the parade, everyone gather to enjoy street-food, sexual-themed competitions and the cheerful atmosphere. Among the proposed challenges there is the sculpture contest, with sculpture that must have a phallic shape of course, or a rodeo with a big rotating penis. The festival is attended both by locals and tourists that, for the occasion, leave aside all taboos. The great majority of people wear all sorts of extravagant things, as fake penis-noses, while eating foods of the same shape.

We can also come across young women posing for photos while riding on swings that for the occasion have the shape of wooden penises.

This Festival, still loyal to its origins, celebrates sexual awareness and the prosperity of the whole community donating all the proceeds to HIV research.

Photo credits: flickr.com
[:]


Japan Folklore: Miko

[:it]

Miko (巫女)

"Vergini del tempio"

Photo credits: pinterest.com

Abbiamo visto questa figura in diversi anime: Rei Hino aka la coraggiosa Sailor Mars di Bishōjo senshi Sērā Mūn, la misteriosa Kikyō di Inuyasha, oppure le simpatiche gemelle Hiiragi di Lucky Star.

Tutti questi personaggi avevano in comune la stessa occupazione: erano miko, quelle fanciulle che si prestano a tuttofare nei templi Shintoisti gestendo varie funzioni. Troviamo quindi le miko impegnate ad aiutare il  sacerdote nelle sue funzioni, a tenere pulito il tempio e a raccogliere le offerte dei fedeli.

Definire questa figura secondo canoni occidentali è molto difficile. Le miko non sono assimilabili alle suore Cristiane, né sono dei veri e proprio Sacerdoti, benché nello Shintoismo è possibile che tale funzione sia ricoperta anche da una donna. Sono più simili forse agli oracoli dell’antica Grecia, o a delle sciamane, dato che nell’antichità a loro era data la possibilità di comunicare con i kami,  divinità Shintoiste. Entrando in trance, esse potevano intercedere presso gli dei per poi comunicare il loro volere agli uomini. Le loro doti divinatorie e la loro capacità di comunicare con il mondo degli spiriti erano riconosciute come volere Divino.

Le origini

Photo credits: dannychoo.com

La loro origine risale al periodo Jōmon, la Preistoria Giapponese, che va da circa il 10000 a.C. al 300 a.C. Una delle menzioni più antiche e storicamente accertate di qualcosa si simile alla parola miko si ritrova nel nome della regina sciamana Himiko (175 circa – 248). Ella era la  regnante dello Yamatai, il più potente tra i regni in cui era suddiviso il Giappone arcaico. Non sappiamo però se Himiko fosse una miko o meno.

La parola ‘miko’ è composta dai kanji 巫 ("shamano, vergine non sposata"),  e 女 ("donna"), e generalmente viene tradotto come ‘vergine del tempio’. Anticamente era scritto come  神子 “Bambino di dio” o “Bambino divino”.

La forte connessione con le divinità era data anche dal fatto che le miko ballavano il Kagura (神楽), letteralmente "Intrattenimento per gli dei o musica degli dei". Questa è un’antica danza sacra Shintoista che affonda le sue radici folklore giapponese legandosi alla dea dell’alba Ama-no-Uzume. Si dice infatti che la dea con questa danza riuscì a convincere Amaterasu, la dea del sole, ad uscire dalla caverna in cui si era rifugiata dopo aver litigato con il fratello Susanoo, il dio della tempesta.

La danza kagura veniva spesso presentata anche presso la corte imperiale da quelle miko che di fatto erano viste come le discendenti della dea Ama-no-Uzume.

Nell’antichità, le miko erano erano figure sociali essenziali, ed era questo un ruolo che prevedeva  grossi impegni e responsabilità. La loro discendenza e connessione con il divino le identificava come messaggere del volere del kami, ma non solo. Le poneva infatti anche nella posizione di influenzare la vita sociale e politica, e di fatto quindi le sorti del villaggio presso cui prestavano servizio.

Attraversarono però una notevole crisi a partire soprattutto dal periodo Kamakura (1118-1333). Si cominciò infatti a porre un freno alle loro pratiche sciamaniche e le miko, senza più fondi, furono costrette a mendicare.  Alcune scivolarono tristemente verso la prostituzione.

Dopo un periodo di grandi trasformazioni in epoca Edo, nel 1873, per volere del “Dipartimento degli Affari Religiosi” (教部), fu emanato un editto chiamato Miko Kindanrei (巫女禁断令). Esso proibiva ogni pratica spirituale alle giovani miko.

Come si diventava miko?

Photo credits: thirteensatlas.wordpress.com

Il percorso per diventare miko era lungo e difficile. Scelta dal clan  in base alla propria forza spirituale o per discendenza diretta da una sciamana, la fanciulla iniziava la sua preparazione in giovane età, in genere con il primo mestruo.  Ci volevano dai tre ai sette anni di per diventare una vera miko.

Le ragazze erano solite lavarsi in acque gelide, praticare l’astinenza, e compiere altri riti come atti di purificazione. Il tutto era volto a imparare a controllare il suo stato di trance.

Imparavano una lingua segreta che solo loro e gli altri sciamani conoscevano, e dovevano conoscere il nome di ogni kami rilevante per il loro villaggio. Imparavano anche l’arte divinatoria della chiaroveggenza e le danze per poter entrare in stato di trance  e parlare con le divinità.

Al completamento di questo percorso si svolgeva una cerimonia che simbolicamente rappresentava il matrimonio tra la miko e il kami che avrebbe servito. Vestita con un abito bianco che ne rappresentava la vita precedente, la fanciulla entrava in uno stato di trance e le veniva chiesto quale kami avrebbe servito. Dopo di che, le veniva tirato un dolcetto di riso sul viso provocandone lo svenimento. Veniva poi adagiata in un letto caldo fino al suo risveglio, quando avrebbe vestito un kimono colorato per indicare l’avvenuto matrimonio tra lei e la divinità.

In virtù di questo legame con la divinità le giovani dovevano restare vergini. Ci sono state però miko con una particolare forza spirituale che hanno potuto continuare il servizio anche dopo il loro matrimonio.

Le miko oggi

Photo credits: muza-chan.net

Oggigiorno la figura della miko esiste ancora ma sono per lo più giovani ragazze universitarie che lavorano part-time presso il tempio. Assistono il kannushi o  ‘uomo di dio’ nelle varie funzioni e riti del tempio, compiono danze cerimoniali, tengono pulito il tempio e vendono omikuji, fogli di carta cui è scritto una predizione divina. In genere non hanno bisogno di una preparazione specifica e non devono essere necessariamente vergini, anche se è ancora richiesto che siano non sposate. La danza kagura è divenuta una semplice danza cerimoniale e non più un mezzo per entrare in contatto con l’entità divina.

Il loro abito tradizionale e composto nella parte superiore da un haori bianco che ne rappresenta la purezza, e nella parte inferiore da un  hakama,  “pantalone” rosso fuoco. Rossi o bianchi sono anche i nastri che ne legano i capelli.

Durante le cerimonie usano campanelli, rametti di sakaki, o intonano preghiere suonando un tamburo. Tra gli altri oggetti rituali è presente anche lo azusa-yumi, un arco che veniva usato per cacciare via gli spiriti maligni. In passato usavano anche specchi per richiamare il kami o delle kataka.

Magari le miko hanno perso la loro connessione divina, ma non la tradizione millenaria che le lega alla cura del tempio, restando una delle figure femminili più famose del Giappone ancora ai giorni nostri.

Photo credits: pinterest.com
[:en]

Miko (巫女)

"The Shrine Maiden"

Photo credits: pinterest.com

We have seen them in many different anime: Rei Hino, the brave Sailor Mars from Bishōjo senshi Sērā Mūn, the mysterious Kikyō from Inuyasha, or the cheerful Hiiragi twins from Lucky Star.

All these characters shared the same occupation: they were miko, girls that serve as helpers in Shinto temples managing various functions. In fact, we find miko committed to helping the priest in his functions, they keep the temple clean and collect the offerings of worshippers.

Defining this figure by Western standards in very difficult. Miko are not comparable to Christian nun, nor are they actual Priests, even though in Shinto women are allowed to become priests. They are more similar to the oracles of ancient Greece, or to shamans, as in ancient times they were gifted with the possibility to talk with the kami, Shinto deities. By entering a state of trance, they could intercede with the gods and then communicate their will to the humans. These divinatory gifts and their ability to communicate with the world of the spirits were recognized as Divine will.

The origins

Photo credits: dannychoo.com

Their origin dates back to the Jōmon period, the Japanese Prehistory, which goes from around 10,000 BC. up to 300 AD. One of the earliest record of anything resembling the word ‘miko’ can be found in the name of the Shaman queen Himiko (c. 175 - 248). She was the ruler of the Yamatai, the most powerful among the kingdoms in which archaic Japan was divided. But we do not know if Himiko was a miko or not.

The word ‘miko’ is made of the kanji 巫 "shaman, unmarried virgin",  and 女 "woman", and it is generally translated as ‘Shrine maiden’. An archaic form of the word is  神子 “Divine child”.

Their strong connection with the deities is also testified by the fact that miko danced the kagura (神楽), literaly "god-entertainment” or “music for the gods". This is an ancient Shinto dance rooted in Japanese folklore that links to the goddess of dawn,  Ama-no-Uzume. It is said that with this dance the goddess  managed to convince Amaterasu, the goddess of sun, to leave the cave where she was hiding after quarreling  with her brother Susanoo, the god of the storm.

The kagura dance was often presented at the imperial court by those miko who were in fact seen as the descendants of Ama-no-Uzume.

In ancient times, miko were considered essential social figures, and this role meant great commitment and responsibility. Their divine bond identified them as messengers of the will of the kami, but not only this. It  also placed them in the position to influence the social and political life, and therefore the fate of the village where they served.

However, they underwent a considerable crisis starting mainly from the Kamakura period (1118-1333). In fact, there were attempts to try to take hold of their shamanic practices, and miko, without anymore funds, were forced into a state of mendicancy. Some of them sadly fell into prostitution.

After a period of great transformations during the Edo period, in 1873, the Religious Affairs Department  (教部) issued an edict called Miko Kindanrei (巫女禁断令). It prohibited all spiritual practices of young miko.

How to become a miko

Photo credits: thirteensatlas.wordpress.com

The path to become miko was long and difficult. Chosen by the clan on the basis of her spiritual strength, or because she wa a direct descent of a shaman, the girl began her preparation at a young age, usually with the first menstruation. It took three to seven years to become a full-fledged miko.

The girls would wash in cold water, practice abstinence, and perform other purification acts. Everything was aimed at learning how to control their state of trance.

They learned a secret language only known to shamans, and they also needed to learn the names of all the kami relevant to their village. They also learned the divinatory art of fortune-telling and the dances they needed to perform in order to enter the state of trance necessary to talk with the deity.

At the completion of this training there was a ceremony that symbolized the marriage between the miko and the kami she would serve. Dressed in a white robe that represented her previous life, the girl entered a state of trance and was asked which kami would she serve. After that, a rice cake was thrown at her face causing her to faint and she was laid down in a warm bed until she woke up. Then, she would wear a colorful kimono symbolizing her marriage with the deity .

Due to this bond with the deity, young girls had to remain virgin. Still, there were cases of miko with a particularly strong spiritual power that  continued their service even after marriage.

Miko today

Photo credits: muza-chan.net

Nowadays the figure of miko still exists but they are mostly young university girls who work part-time at the temple. They assist the kannushi or 'man of god' in the various functions and rites of the temple, perform ceremonial dances, keep the temple clean and sell omikuji, sheets of paper on which is written a divine prediction. They generally do not need any specific preparation and do not necessarily need to be virgins, though they are still required to be unmarried. The kagura dance has become a mere ceremonial dance and it is no longer a way of coming into contact with the divine entity.

Their traditional outfit consists of a white haori representing their pureness,  for the upper part of the body, and a pair of red hakama. Red or white are the ribbons in their hair.

During the ceremonies they use bells, sakaki branches, or offer prayers playing a drum.  Among other ritual objects there is also the azusa-yumi, a bow that was once used to ward off evil spirits. In the past they also used mirrors to attract the kami and katana.

Maybe miko have lost their divine bond, but they still retain the millenary tradition of taking care of the temple, remaining one the most famous figures of modern Japan.

Photo credits: pinterest.com
[:ja]

Miko (巫女)

"The Shrine Maiden"

Photo credits: pinterest.com

We have seen them in many different anime: Rei Hino, the brave Sailor Mars from Bishōjo senshi Sērā Mūn, the mysterious Kikyō from Inuyasha, or the cheerful Hiiragi twins from Lucky Star.

All these characters shared the same occupation: they were miko, girls that serve as helpers in Shinto temples managing various functions. In fact, we find miko committed to helping the priest in his functions, they keep the temple clean and collect the offerings of worshippers.

Defining this figure by Western standards in very difficult. Miko are not comparable to Christian nun, nor are they actual Priests, even though in Shinto women are allowed to become priests. They are more similar to the oracles of ancient Greece, or to shamans, as in ancient times they were gifted with the possibility to talk with the kami, Shinto deities. By entering a state of trance, they could intercede with the gods and then communicate their will to the humans. These divinatory gifts and their ability to communicate with the world of the spirits were recognized as Divine will.

The origins

Photo credits: dannychoo.com

Their origin dates back to the Jōmon period, the Japanese Prehistory, which goes from around 10,000 BC. up to 300 AD. One of the earliest record of anything resembling the word ‘miko’ can be found in the name of the Shaman queen Himiko (c. 175 - 248). She was the ruler of the Yamatai, the most powerful among the kingdoms in which archaic Japan was divided. But we do not know if Himiko was a miko or not.

The word ‘miko’ is made of the kanji 巫 "shaman, unmarried virgin",  and 女 "woman", and it is generally translated as ‘Shrine maiden’. An archaic form of the word is  神子 “Divine child”.

Their strong connection with the deities is also testified by the fact that miko danced the kagura (神楽), literaly "god-entertainment” or “music for the gods". This is an ancient Shinto dance rooted in Japanese folklore that links to the goddess of dawn,  Ama-no-Uzume. It is said that with this dance the goddess  managed to convince Amaterasu, the goddess of sun, to leave the cave where she was hiding after quarreling  with her brother Susanoo, the god of the storm.

The kagura dance was often presented at the imperial court by those miko who were in fact seen as the descendants of Ama-no-Uzume.

In ancient times, miko were considered essential social figures, and this role meant great commitment and responsibility. Their divine bond identified them as messengers of the will of the kami, but not only this. It  also placed them in the position to influence the social and political life, and therefore the fate of the village where they served.

However, they underwent a considerable crisis starting mainly from the Kamakura period (1118-1333). In fact, there were attempts to try to take hold of their shamanic practices, and miko, without anymore funds, were forced into a state of mendicancy. Some of them sadly fell into prostitution.

After a period of great transformations during the Edo period, in 1873, the Religious Affairs Department  (教部) issued an edict called Miko Kindanrei (巫女禁断令). It prohibited all spiritual practices of young miko.

How to become a miko

Photo credits: thirteensatlas.wordpress.com

The path to become miko was long and difficult. Chosen by the clan on the basis of her spiritual strength, or because she wa a direct descent of a shaman, the girl began her preparation at a young age, usually with the first menstruation. It took three to seven years to become a full-fledged miko.

The girls would wash in cold water, practice abstinence, and perform other purification acts. Everything was aimed at learning how to control their state of trance.

They learned a secret language only known to shamans, and they also needed to learn the names of all the kami relevant to their village. They also learned the divinatory art of fortune-telling and the dances they needed to perform in order to enter the state of trance necessary to talk with the deity.

At the completion of this training there was a ceremony that symbolized the marriage between the miko and the kami she would serve. Dressed in a white robe that represented her previous life, the girl entered a state of trance and was asked which kami would she serve. After that, a rice cake was thrown at her face causing her to faint and she was laid down in a warm bed until she woke up. Then, she would wear a colorful kimono symbolizing her marriage with the deity .

Due to this bond with the deity, young girls had to remain virgin. Still, there were cases of miko with a particularly strong spiritual power that  continued their service even after marriage.

Miko today

Photo credits: muza-chan.net

Nowadays the figure of miko still exists but they are mostly young university girls who work part-time at the temple. They assist the kannushi or 'man of god' in the various functions and rites of the temple, perform ceremonial dances, keep the temple clean and sell omikuji, sheets of paper on which is written a divine prediction. They generally do not need any specific preparation and do not necessarily need to be virgins, though they are still required to be unmarried. The kagura dance has become a mere ceremonial dance and it is no longer a way of coming into contact with the divine entity.

Their traditional outfit consists of a white haori representing their pureness,  for the upper part of the body, and a pair of red hakama. Red or white are the ribbons in their hair.

During the ceremonies they use bells, sakaki branches, or offer prayers playing a drum.  Among other ritual objects there is also the azusa-yumi, a bow that was once used to ward off evil spirits. In the past they also used mirrors to attract the kami and katana.

Maybe miko have lost their divine bond, but they still retain the millenary tradition of taking care of the temple, remaining one the most famous figures of modern Japan.

Photo credits: pinterest.com
[:]


Japan Folklore: Hōnen Matsuri

[:it]

Hōnen Matsuri

Photo Credits: google.it

Il 15 marzo di ogni anno si celebra lo Honen Matsuri in tutto il Giappone. Il più famoso ha luogo presso il Tagata Jinja nella piccola città di Komaki, fuori Nagoya, con foto e filmati disponibili su Internet. Ma in altre parti del Giappone, come l’Honen Matsuri di Okinawa, questo festival è ancora considerato un rito sacro e segreto e nessuna foto o registrazione sono permessi. Anche parlare o scrivere di ciò che si è visto è tecnicamente proibito.

Hōnen Matsuri (豊年祭),  letteralmente “Festival del raccolto”, ha una storia di quasi 1500 anni: il suo scopo è garantire la fertilità delle piantagioni per l'anno successivo. Un rituale ricco di benedizioni per il raccolto, ma anche per ogni tipo di prosperità e fertilità in generale. Agli occhi degli occidentali, questa celebrazione potrebbe assumere dei connotati osceni poiché il suo simbolo è un fallo di legno di cipresso di 280 kg, per una lunghezza di 2,5 metri. Ma non è assolutamente così.

I riti fallici hanno infatti origine nella preistoria. Si pensa che questi riti local indigeni, e le corrispondenti pratiche e credenze della fertilità vaginale, furono facilmente adattati al nuovo sistema di credenze taoiste che stavano prendendo piede in Giappone. Sistema di credenze che avrebbe poi formato la Via dello Yin e dello Yang, la tradizionale cosmologia esoterica. I culti della fertilità locale coesistettero e sembrano essere stati incoraggiati, istituzionalizzati e presieduti dalle élite reali di Nara. Élite che si stabilirono come signori feudali su estese aree locali.

La celebrazione della fertilità

Un elemento importante delle feste shintoiste giapponesi sono le processioni, in cui il kami (divinità shintoista) del santuario locale viene trasportato attraverso la città in un mikoshi 神輿 o 御輿 (palanchini, piccolo santuario trasportabile). È l'unico periodo dell'anno in cui il kami lascia il santuario per essere portato in giro per la città. Si dice che questo rito del  trasporto della divinità si basi sulla leggenda del kami che qui dimora, Takeinazumi-no-mikoto. Egli aveva un pene enorme e prese in moglie una donna locale, Aratahime-no-mikoto.

Alle 9:00 del mattino i preparativi sono in corso: gli stand gastronomici fanno capolino con le loro banane al cioccolato scolpite a forma di pene decorate alla base con marshmallow. Spuntano bancarelle di souvenir, statuette e altri oggetti che vengono offerte per augurare una grande fertilità ai propri cari. Queste statue permettono alle coppie di pregare per un bambino, i non sposati pregano per un marito o una moglie, mentre gli agricoltori sperano in abbondanti raccolti. Il tutto è allietato da l’immancabile distribuzione di sake all-you can-drink contenuto in grandi botti di legno.

Photo credits: thingstodoinnagoyawhenyouredeaddrunk.wordpress.com

La cerimonia inizia verso le 10:00. I sacerdoti cospargono di sale la strada per purificare la via che verrà intrapresa dai portatori. Recitano anche preghiere e impartiscono benedizioni ai partecipanti e ai mikoshi, così come al grande fallo di legno che deve essere trasportato lungo il percorso della parata. Il punto di partenza è il santuario chiamato Shinmei Sha (negli anni pari), situato su una grande collina, o il santuario di Kumano-sha (negli anni dispari), per arrivare poi al santuario di Tagata Jinja. Giunti qui,  c’è il tradizionale rito del mochi nage: i partecipanti si battono per afferrare una delle piccole torte di riso lanciate dai funzionari dalle piattaforme rialzate. Questi dolcetti porteranno fortuna nell’anno avvenire.[:en]

Hōnen Matsuri

Photo Credits: google.it

The Honen Matsuri is celebrated every year on March 15 throughout Japan. The most famous one takes place at the Tagata Jinja, in the small town of Komaki, outside Nagoya, with photos and videos available on the Internet. But in other parts of Japan, such as the Honen Matsuri of Okinawa, this festival is still considered a sacred and secret rite and no photo or recording is allowed. Even speaking or writing about what has been seen is technically prohibited.

Hōnen Matsuri (豊年祭),  literally “Harvest Festival”, has a 1500-year-long history: its purpose is to guarantee the fertility of the harvest for the following year. A ritual full of blessings for the harvest, but also for all sorts of prosperity and fertility in general. This celebration could take on obscene features, at least in western eyes,  because its symbol is a 280 kg cypress pine phallus, with a length of 2.5 meters. But it is absolutely not like that.

Phallic rites have in fact prehistoric origins. It is believed that this local indigenous rites, and the corresponding vaginal fertility practices and beliefs, were easily accommodated by the new system of Taoist beliefs that were taking root in Japan. System of beliefs that would later form the Way of Yin and Yang, the traditional esoteric cosmology. The local fertility cults co-existed and appear to have been encouraged, institutionalized and presided over by the royal elites from Nara.  Élites who established themselves as feudal lords over expanded local areas.

The celebration of fertility

An important element of Japanese Shinto festivals are processions, in which the kami (Shinto divinity) of the local shrine is transported across the city in a mikoshi 神輿 or 御輿 (palanquin, small portable shrine). It is the only time of the year in which the kami leaves its shrine to be carried around the city. It is said that this transporting of the deity rite is based on a legend about the enshrined kami, Takeinazumi-no-mikoto. He had an enormous penis and took a local woman, Aratahime-no-mikoto, as his wife.

At 9:00 am preparations are underway: food stands peep out with their chocolate bananas carved in the shape of a penis and decorated at the base with marshmallows. Here and there, stalls of souvenirs, statuettes and other objects to be offered to the loved ones wishing for great fertility. These statues allow couples to pray for a child, the unmarried pray for a husband or wife, while farmers hope for abundant harvest. Everything enlivened by the unfailing distribution of all-you-can-drink sake contained in big wooden barrels.

Photo credits: thingstodoinnagoyawhenyouredeaddrunk.wordpress.com

The ceremony begins around 10:00 pm. Priests sprinkle the road with salt to purify the way ahead of the carriers. They also say prayers and impart blessings on participants and  mikoshi, as well as on the large wooden phallus that has to be carried along the parade route. The starting point is a shrine called Shinmei Sha (on even-numbered years), located on a large hill, or the Kumano-sha  shrine (on odd-numbered years), to arrive at the Tagata Jinja shrine. Once here, there is the traditional mochi nage rite: participants fight to grab one of the small rice cakes thrown by the officials from their raised platforms. These sweets will bring good luck for the next year.[:ja]

Hōnen Matsuri

Photo Credits: google.it

The Honen Matsuri is celebrated every year on March 15 throughout Japan. The most famous one takes place at the Tagata Jinja, in the small town of Komaki, outside Nagoya, with photos and videos available on the Internet. But in other parts of Japan, such as the Honen Matsuri of Okinawa, this festival is still considered a sacred and secret rite and no photo or recording is allowed. Even speaking or writing about what has been seen is technically prohibited.

Hōnen Matsuri (豊年祭),  literally “Harvest Festival”, has a 1500-year-long history: its purpose is to guarantee the fertility of the harvest for the following year. A ritual full of blessings for the harvest, but also for all sorts of prosperity and fertility in general. This celebration could take on obscene features, at least in western eyes,  because its symbol is a 280 kg cypress pine phallus, with a length of 2.5 meters. But it is absolutely not like that.

Phallic rites have in fact prehistoric origins. It is believed that this local indigenous rites, and the corresponding vaginal fertility practices and beliefs, were easily accommodated by the new system of Taoist beliefs that were taking root in Japan. System of beliefs that would later form the Way of Yin and Yang, the traditional esoteric cosmology. The local fertility cults co-existed and appear to have been encouraged, institutionalized and presided over by the royal elites from Nara.  Élites who established themselves as feudal lords over expanded local areas.

The celebration of fertility

An important element of Japanese Shinto festivals are processions, in which the kami (Shinto divinity) of the local shrine is transported across the city in a mikoshi 神輿 or 御輿 (palanquin, small portable shrine). It is the only time of the year in which the kami leaves its shrine to be carried around the city. It is said that this transporting of the deity rite is based on a legend about the enshrined kami, Takeinazumi-no-mikoto. He had an enormous penis and took a local woman, Aratahime-no-mikoto, as his wife.

At 9:00 am preparations are underway: food stands peep out with their chocolate bananas carved in the shape of a penis and decorated at the base with marshmallows. Here and there, stalls of souvenirs, statuettes and other objects to be offered to the loved ones wishing for great fertility. These statues allow couples to pray for a child, the unmarried pray for a husband or wife, while farmers hope for abundant harvest. Everything enlivened by the unfailing distribution of all-you-can-drink sake contained in big wooden barrels.

Photo credits: thingstodoinnagoyawhenyouredeaddrunk.wordpress.com

The ceremony begins around 10:00 pm. Priests sprinkle the road with salt to purify the way ahead of the carriers. They also say prayers and impart blessings on participants and  mikoshi, as well as on the large wooden phallus that has to be carried along the parade route. The starting point is a shrine called Shinmei Sha (on even-numbered years), located on a large hill, or the Kumano-sha  shrine (on odd-numbered years), to arrive at the Tagata Jinja shrine. Once here, there is the traditional mochi nage rite: participants fight to grab one of the small rice cakes thrown by the officials from their raised platforms. These sweets will bring good luck for the next year.[:]


Japan Folklore: Tennin

[:it]

Tennin

Photo credits: google.it

Le radici del Buddhismo in Giappone sono molto profonde e seguono di pari passo la storia del paese, evolvendosi con esso. Il Buddhismo giapponese infatti è costituito in buona parte dalla continuazione o dall'evoluzione delle antiche scuole del Buddhismo cinese. Alcune di queste scuole oggi estinte nel paese d'origine, introdotte nell'arcipelago nipponico in epoche diverse hanno qui continuato a vivere e a mutare.

Inoltre, l'introduzione della scrittura e della cultura cinesi, che sono all'origine della Storia del Giappone propriamente detta (VI secolo) fu veicolata anche da rapporti di carattere religioso. I monaci buddhisti rimarranno per lungo tempo i tramiti e gli interpreti più importanti della cultura continentale in Giappone.

Le Creature Celestiali

Quando si parla di Buddhismo, siamo portati a pensare immediatamente a Buddha. In realtà ci sono figure molto importanti affiancate a Buddha che risiedono assieme a lui nel paradiso buddhista. Tra queste figure troviamo i Tennin, frutto anch’essi di un lungo processo di assimilazione e trasformazione.

I Tennin , il cui nome è composto dai kanji 天 che significa cielo e 人 persona, sono letteralmente "creature celestiali", esseri spirituali. Essi comprendono gli HITEN 飛天, le creature volanti, gli UCHUU KUYOU BOSATSU 雲中供養菩薩, Bodhisattva seduti su delle nuvole, le TENNYO 天女, le fanciulle celestiali, i TENNOTSUKAI 天の使い, i messaggeri celesti e i KARYŌBINGA 迦陵頻伽, i quali sono assistenti celestiali che appaiono in varie forme, ma solitamente sono creature con il corpo di uccello e la di un Bodhisattva.

Photo credits: google.it

Costoro non sono oggetti di culto, anche se la gente accorda loro una certa venerazione mettendo fiori, acqua e riso ai loro piedi. La loro funzione è quella di proteggere la legge buddista servendo il DEVA ovvero il gruppo TENBU, divinità che includono esseri divini e creature soprannaturali come il Drago, l'uomo-uccello Karura e le Ninfe Celestiali.

La maggior parte ha origine nelle precedenti tradizioni vediche dell'India. Il termine sanscrito per questi esseri celesti è Apsara, ed esso si riferisce alle bellezze divine e ai ballerini che popolavano la corte di Lord Indra nella mitologia indù. In Giappone, il termine Apsara è reso come TENNIN.

Nell'arte, appaiono più frequentemente come ballerini e musicisti che adornano statue, dipinti e templi in Cina, Giappone e Sud-Est asiatico. I loro attributi non sono chiaramente specificati nei testi buddisti e quindi il loro aspetto è piuttosto vario. In Giappone, vengono spesso mostrati in piedi o seduti sulle nuvole o mentre volano in aria in pose aggraziate. Spesso sono intenti a suonare strumenti musicali o a spargere fiori per lodare gli dei, e di solito indossano indumenti celesti leggeri e fluttuanti, impreziositi da sciarpe di garza, i Tenne.[:en]

Tennin

Photo credits: google.it

The roots of Buddhism in Japan are very deep and follow the history of the country itself, thus evolving together with it. In fact, Japanese Buddhism largely consists of the continuation or evolution of ancient schools of Chinese Buddhism. Some of these schools, now no longer existing in their country of origin, once introduced into the Japanese archipelago continued to live and change.
Furthermore, through these religious relations, Chinese writing and culture were also introduced in the country representing the base of the proper History of Japan (6th century). Buddhist monks will retain the position of the most important intermediary and interpreters of the continental culture in Japan for a long time.

Celestial Beings

When we refer to Buddhism, we are immediately led to think of Buddha. In reality, there are other very important figures that accompany the Buddha and who live in the Buddhist paradise with him. Among these figures we find the Tennin, that are the result of a long process of assimilation and transformation.

Tennin , whose name is made up of the kanji 天 which means sky and 人 person, are literally "celestial creatures", spiritual beings. They include the HITEN 飛天, Flying Beings, the UCHUU KUYOU BOSATSU 雲中供養菩薩, Bosatsu on Clouds, the TENNYO

天女,Celestial Maidens, the TENNOTSUKAI 天の使い, heavenly messengers, and the KARYŌBINGA 迦陵頻伽, who are Celestial Assistants that appear in many forms but that usually possess the body of a bird and the head of  a Bodhisattva.

Photo credits: google.it

They are not specially worshiped, although people do accord them some veneration by placing flowers, water, and rice at their feet. Their function is to protect Buddhist law by serving the DEVA, or else, the TENBU group, that includes other divinely spiritual beings, and creatures like the Dragon, the bird-man Karura, plus Celestial Nymphs and Heavenly Musicians among them.

Most originated in the ancient Vedic traditions of India. The Sanskrit word used to refer to this celestial beings is Apsara, often represented as divine beauties and dancers who populated Lord Indra’s court in Indian mythology. In Japan the Apsaras take the name of TENNIN.

In the arts, they frequently appear as dancers and musicians adorning statues, paintings and temples in China, Japan and Southeast Asia. Their attributes are not clearly specified in Buddhist texts and therefore their appearance is quite varied. In Japan, they are often shown standing or sitting on clouds or flying in the air in graceful poses. They are often shown playing musical instruments or scattering flowers to give praise to the gods, and usually wear light and floating celestial garments, embellished with scarves of gauze, the Tenne.[:ja]

Tennin

Photo credits: google.it

The roots of Buddhism in Japan are very deep and follow the history of the country itself, thus evolving together with it. In fact, Japanese Buddhism largely consists of the continuation or evolution of ancient schools of Chinese Buddhism. Some of these schools, now no longer existing in their country of origin, once introduced into the Japanese archipelago continued to live and change.
Furthermore, through these religious relations, Chinese writing and culture were also introduced in the country representing the base of the proper History of Japan (6th century). Buddhist monks will retain the position of the most important intermediary and interpreters of the continental culture in Japan for a long time.

Celestial Beings

When we refer to Buddhism, we are immediately led to think of Buddha. In reality, there are other very important figures that accompany the Buddha and who live in the Buddhist paradise with him. Among these figures we find the Tennin, that are the result of a long process of assimilation and transformation.

Tennin , whose name is made up of the kanji 天 which means sky and 人 person, are literally "celestial creatures", spiritual beings. They include the HITEN 飛天, Flying Beings, the UCHUU KUYOU BOSATSU 雲中供養菩薩, Bosatsu on Clouds, the TENNYO

天女,Celestial Maidens, the TENNOTSUKAI 天の使い, heavenly messengers, and the KARYŌBINGA 迦陵頻伽, who are Celestial Assistants that appear in many forms but that usually possess the body of a bird and the head of  a Bodhisattva.

Photo credits: google.it

They are not specially worshiped, although people do accord them some veneration by placing flowers, water, and rice at their feet. Their function is to protect Buddhist law by serving the DEVA, or else, the TENBU group, that includes other divinely spiritual beings, and creatures like the Dragon, the bird-man Karura, plus Celestial Nymphs and Heavenly Musicians among them.

Most originated in the ancient Vedic traditions of India. The Sanskrit word used to refer to this celestial beings is Apsara, often represented as divine beauties and dancers who populated Lord Indra’s court in Indian mythology. In Japan the Apsaras take the name of TENNIN.

In the arts, they frequently appear as dancers and musicians adorning statues, paintings and temples in China, Japan and Southeast Asia. Their attributes are not clearly specified in Buddhist texts and therefore their appearance is quite varied. In Japan, they are often shown standing or sitting on clouds or flying in the air in graceful poses. They are often shown playing musical instruments or scattering flowers to give praise to the gods, and usually wear light and floating celestial garments, embellished with scarves of gauze, the Tenne.[:]


[:it]Japan Folklore: Tradizioni Natalizie[:en]Japan Folklore: Christmas Traditions[:ja]Japan Folklore: Christmas Traditions[:]

[:it]

Tradizioni Natalizie

Photo credits: Inside Japan Tours

Meri Kurisumasu!

In Giapponese “Buon Natale” si dice “Meri Kurisumasu” ed è scritto sia in Hiragana (めりーくりすます) che in  Katakana (メリークリスマス). Babbo Natale è invece conosciuto come  Santa-san (サンタさん、サンタクロース), importato direttamente dagli USA dove il pacioccone signore vestito di rosso è chiamato proprio Santa Claus.

Esiste però anche in Giappone una figura molto simile a Babbo Natale anche se non strettamente legata al Natale.  È Hotei-osho, un dio Giapponese della buona fortuna nella tradizione buddista, e anch’egli è solito portare doni.

Il Natale non è considerato come festa nazionale ma trovandosi tra il 23 dicembre, giorno del compleanno dell’attuale Imperatore Akihito, ed il 31 dicembre, spesso le scuole sono chiuse per il 25 dicembre. È considerato invece un normale giorno lavorativo per gli uffici. L’atmosfera a cui siamo generalmente abituati si può percepire già da fine ottobre: decorazioni, luci e musiche natalizie invadono le strade, i negozi e le stazioni.

Photo credits: Condé Nast Traveler

Le origini di Kurisumasu in Giappone

Il cristianesimo fu introdotto in Giappone dai missionari gesuiti e francescani nel XVI secolo. Durante i primi anni del cristianesimo molti cristiani furono arrestati, torturati e uccisi per via del loro credo. Solo nel XVII secolo le chiese ricominciarono a popolarsi e nel XX secolo diversi missionari tornarono in Giappone. Oggi i Cristiani del Sol levante sono circa l’1% della popolazione, e si può affermare che la diffusione delle tradizioni cristiane sia avvenuta sul finire del XX secolo. Il Natale è universalmente riconosciuto come festa per piccoli e grandi anche nel Sol Levante, seppur non considerato nel suo spirito religioso. Visto come un periodo di felicità, è diventata una tradizione irrinunciabile. In particolare, la vigilia di Natale è vista come l’occasione per le coppie innamorate di trascorrere del tempo insieme e scambiarsi regali. Anche le coppie sposate si concedono del tempo per se lasciando i bambini con Ji’i-san e Ba’a-chan (nonno e nonna).

Photo credits: JapanToday

Le Tradizioni di “Kurisumasu”

Oltre allo scambio dei doni visto più come un gesto romantico tra fidanzati, ci sono altre due curiose tradizioni che rendono il 25 dicembre molto particolare in Giappone.

La prima è il Pollo Fritto e la seconda è la Torta di Natale.

Photo credits: Google images

Questo periodo dell’anno è il più fruttuoso per i ristoranti della catena di fast-food KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken). Qui le persone prenotano il loro pollo fritto in anticipo per il giorno di Natale. Tutto nacque da una campagna pubblicitaria lanciata in tutto paese proprio dalla catena americana negli anni 70: “Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!” (Kentucky for Christmas!). KFC se ne servì per attrarre la popolazione orientale offrendo loro un menù completo in confezione natalizia che comprendeva pollo, insalata e torta.

Photo credits: Google images

La Torta di Natale invece è in genere un semplice pan di spagna con panna e fragole decorata a tema natalizio.

Inoltre non è difficile in questo periodo udire le note di Jingle Bells e All I Want For Christmas Is You di Mariah Carey, oltre ad una vasta quantità di canzoni realizzate da gruppi e cantanti  giapponesi  come Nozomi Sasaki e Momoiro Clover Z.[:en]

Christmas Traditions

Photo credits: Inside Japan Tours

Meri Kurisumasu!

In Japanese “Merry Christmas” is translated as “Meri Kurisumasu”, written both in Hiragana (めりーくりすます) and in Katakana (メリークリスマス). Santa Klaus, the chubby man dressed in red, is known as  Santa-san (サンタさん、サンタクロース), name imported directly from the USA. But in Japan there is another figure very similar to Santa Klaus, even if not strictly related to Christmas. It is Hotei-osho, a Japanese god of good fortune according to Buddhist tradition, and he is said to bring gifts too.

Christmas is not considered as a national holiday but, as it falls between December 23rd, the current Emperor Akihito’s birthday, and December 31st, schools are often closed for December 25th. Instead, it is considered a normal working day for offices. The atmosphere to which we are generally accustomed can be perceived since the end of October: decorations, lights and Christmas music crowd streets, shops and stations.

Photo credits: Condé Nast Traveler

The origin of Kurisumasu in Japan

Christianity was introduced in Japan by Jesuit and Franciscan missionaries in the 16th century. During the early years of Christianity many Christians were arrested, tortured and killed because of their beliefs. Only in the 17th century churches began to grow again and in the 20th century several missionaries returned to Japan. Today, Christians in the country of Rising Sun are about 1% of the population, and it can be said that the spread of Christian traditions started at the end of the 20th century. Christmas is universally recognized as a day of celebration for children and adults in the country of the Rising Sun too, although not considered in its religious spirit. Seen as a period of happiness, it has become an indispensable tradition. In particular, Christmas Eve is seen as an opportunity for couples and lovers to spend time together and exchange gifts. Married couples as well take some time for themselves leaving the children with Ji'i-san and Ba'a-chan (grandfather and grandmother).

Photo credits: JapanToday

“Kurisumasu” traditions

In addition to the exchange of gifts, seen more as a romantic gesture between couples, there are two other curious traditions that make December 25 very special in Japan.
The first is Fried Chicken and the second is the Christmas cake.

Photo credits: Google images

This time of year is the most fruitful for restaurants of the fast-food chain KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken). Here people order their fried chicken for Christmas days in advance. Everything started from an advertising campaign launched all over the country by the American chain in the 70s: "Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!" (Kentucky for Christmas!). KFC used it to attract the eastern population by offering them a complete menu in Christmas packaging that included chicken, salad and cake.

Photo credits: Google images

On the other hand, the Christmas cake is usually a simple sponge cake with cream and strawberries, and Christmas-themed decorations.
Also, it is not unusual at this time of year to hear the notes of Jingle Bells and All I Want For Christmas Is You by Mariah Carey, as well as a vast amount of songs made by Japanese bands and singers like Nozomi Sasaki and Momoiro Clover Z.
[:ja]

Christmas Traditions

Photo credits: Inside Japan Tours

Meri Kurisumasu!

In Japanese “Merry Christmas” is translated as “Meri Kurisumasu”, written both in Hiragana (めりーくりすます) and in Katakana (メリークリスマス). Santa Klaus, the chubby man dressed in red, is known as  Santa-san (サンタさん、サンタクロース), name imported directly from the USA. But in Japan there is another figure very similar to Santa Klaus, even if not strictly related to Christmas. It is Hotei-osho, a Japanese god of good fortune according to Buddhist tradition, and he is said to bring gifts too.

Christmas is not considered as a national holiday but, as it falls between December 23rd, the current Emperor Akihito’s birthday, and December 31st, schools are often closed for December 25th. Instead, it is considered a normal working day for offices. The atmosphere to which we are generally accustomed can be perceived since the end of October: decorations, lights and Christmas music crowd streets, shops and stations.

Photo credits: Condé Nast Traveler

The origin of Kurisumasu in Japan

Christianity was introduced in Japan by Jesuit and Franciscan missionaries in the 16th century. During the early years of Christianity many Christians were arrested, tortured and killed because of their beliefs. Only in the 17th century churches began to grow again and in the 20th century several missionaries returned to Japan. Today, Christians in the country of Rising Sun are about 1% of the population, and it can be said that the spread of Christian traditions started at the end of the 20th century. Christmas is universally recognized as a day of celebration for children and adults in the country of the Rising Sun too, although not considered in its religious spirit. Seen as a period of happiness, it has become an indispensable tradition. In particular, Christmas Eve is seen as an opportunity for couples and lovers to spend time together and exchange gifts. Married couples as well take some time for themselves leaving the children with Ji'i-san and Ba'a-chan (grandfather and grandmother).

Photo credits: JapanToday

“Kurisumasu” traditions

In addition to the exchange of gifts, seen more as a romantic gesture between couples, there are two other curious traditions that make December 25 very special in Japan.
The first is Fried Chicken and the second is the Christmas cake.

Photo credits: Google images

This time of year is the most fruitful for restaurants of the fast-food chain KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken). Here people order their fried chicken for Christmas days in advance. Everything started from an advertising campaign launched all over the country by the American chain in the 70s: "Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!" (Kentucky for Christmas!). KFC used it to attract the eastern population by offering them a complete menu in Christmas packaging that included chicken, salad and cake.

Photo credits: Google images

On the other hand, the Christmas cake is usually a simple sponge cake with cream and strawberries, and Christmas-themed decorations.
Also, it is not unusual at this time of year to hear the notes of Jingle Bells and All I Want For Christmas Is You by Mariah Carey, as well as a vast amount of songs made by Japanese bands and singers like Nozomi Sasaki and Momoiro Clover Z.
[:]


Japan Folklore: Botan Dōrō

[:it]

Botan Dōrō

La Lanterna di Peonie

Photo credits: allabout-japan.com

Esistono molte storie dove amanti sfortunati sono divisi dal destino, a volte arrivando insieme alla morte (Romeo e Giulietta e Tristano ed Isotta le più famose). Ma nessuna è come la storia Botan Dōrō o La lanterna di Peonie (牡丹燈籠). Due innamorati divisi dal regno dei vivi e quello dei morti sono indissolubilmente legati dal loro giuramento d’eterno amore.

Questa leggenda vede la luce nel libro Jiandeng Xinhua scritto da Qu You durante la prima parte della dinastia Ming. Successivamente, venne poi riproposta durante il periodo Edo dallo scrittore e prete buddista Asai Ryōi sull’onda del  fenomeno Kaidan (怪談). Questo termine giapponese indica tutte quelle storie che narrano di mistero e fantasmi, scritto con due kanji: Kai( 怪)che significa “strano, misterioso, apparizione incantata” e Dan (談)“narrazione recitata”.

Questa leggenda va riconosciuta come una delle prime storie giapponesi riguardanti i fantasmi a diventare film nel 1910. Con numerose riedizioni durante gli anni, è forse una più produttive tra cinema, adattamenti televisivi e Pink Movie, genere Soft Porno Giapponese.

La bella Otsuyu

Photo credits: pinterest.com 

La leggenda narra che durante la prima notte dell’ Obon (la commemorazione dei defunti secondo la tradizione Buddista Giapponese) il samurai Ogiwara Shinnojo incontra una bellissima donna e una bambina sua serva. In mano le due hanno lanterne di peonie, come vuole l’usanza, e il samurai chiede alla bimba il nome della splendida donna. Otsuyu era il suo nome ed il samurai non fu in grado di fare altro se non innamorarsene perdutamente e giurarle amore eterno quella sera stessa. Da li in poi, tutte le sere i due si incontrano bruciando di passione l’uno per l’altra. Tuttavia, durante le prime ore del mattino la bella donna e la bambina sparivano. A causa di questo comportamento sospetto, ed anche per via di una malattia improvvisa dell’uomo, un anziano vicino si incuriosisce. Entrando in casa sua,  scopre che il samurai non giaceva a letto con una bellissima donna ma con uno scheletro! L’anziano vicino avvisa dunque un prete che a sua volta avvisa Ogiwara, il quale scopre così che l’amata è in realtà un fantasma. Ogiwara capisce anche che la sua malattia era dovuta al fatto che dormire con uno spirito consuma l’energia vitale di una persona. Il prete benedice l’abitazione del samurai lasciando incantesimi protettivi e portafortuna affinché la donna e la bambina non possano più entrare. La sera stessa la donna cerca invano di raggiungere l’amato ma, non riuscendovi, urla disperata il suo amore per Ogiwara che alla fine cede lasciandola entrare in casa. La mattina dopo, il vicino ed il prete trovano Ogiwara morto stringendo a sè lo scheletro di Otsuyu.

Dallo stile macabro del periodo Edo al romanticismo di quello Meiji

Photo credits: tumblr.com 

Di questa storia è molto famosa la versione del teatro Kabuki, ma c’è una sostanziale differenza tra le due. Nella versioni teatrale infatti i protagonisti si conoscono prima della morte di Otsuyu. Le loro famiglie sono molto vicine da tempo e questo aveva favorito la nascita dell’amore tra i due. Questa versione è la più conosciuta proprio per il romanticismo pregnante dall’inizio alla fine. Il loro amore, la passione giovanile, e poi la delusione per un distacco forzato dovuto per un periodo alla malattia del ragazzo.  Durante questo periodo di separazione Otsuyu muore convinta che Saburo non fosse sopravvissuto alla malattia. Saburo invece si riprende e disperato per la morte della ragazza prega il suo spirito durante la festa dell'Obon. Quella sera stessa, tornando a casa,  incontra sul suo cammino una donna e la sua serva con in mano una lanterna di peonie. Con sua grande gioia il giovane  si accorge che quella donna è proprio la sua Otsuyu che da quella notte in poi, tutte le notti, andrà a fargli visita. Ma la gioia durerà poco. Infatti, un servo, spiando da una fessura nel muro della stanza di Saburo, si accorge che in realtà egli giaceva ogni notte con uno scheletro. Un prete buddista viene subito avvertito e alle porte della casa vengono affissi dei talismani per impedire allo spirito di entrare. Eppure, ogni notte la fanciulla torna per gridare il suo amore per Saburo che, disperato per la nuova separazione, si ammala nuovamente. Ma la consapevolezza di amarla comunque e nonostante tutto significa una sola cosa. La morte! I talismani vengono rimossi per permettere allo spirito di entrare ancora una volta. L’ultima. Il giovane protagonista però muore felice tra le braccia di colei che ama.

Questa differenza di temi si può attribuire al diverso periodo in cui sono state scritte le due versioni. Quella originale risale al periodo Edo con la vena macabra che caratterizza il folclore Giapponese dell’epoca. Quella teatrale invece è più recente e vede la luce nel periodo Meiji, ovvero il periodo in cui il Giappone si avvicina all’occidente grazie all’apertura dell’imperatore Mutsuhito. Apertura che non si verificò solo a livello politico, ma anche a livello culturale influenzando quindi gusti e costumi, e questa leggenda ne è un esempio.[:en]

Botan Dōrō

The Peony Lantern

Photo credits: allabout-japan.com

There are many stories where unlucky lovers are separated by destiny that sometimes leads them to death together (Romeo and Juliet and Tristan and Isolde are the most famous). But none is like the story Botan Dōrō or The Peony lantern (牡丹 燈籠). Two lovers, divided by the world of the living and the world of the dead, are inextricably bounded by their oath of eternal love.

This legend sees the light in the book Jiandeng Xinhua written by Qu You during the first part of the Ming dynasty. Subsequently, it was revived during the Edo period by the Buddhist writer and priest Asai Ryōi on the wave of the Kaidan phenomenon (怪 談). This Japanese term refers to all those stories that tell of mystery and ghosts, written with two kanji: Kai (怪) that means "strange, mysterious, enchanted appearance" and Dan (談) "recited narration".

This legend is recognized as one of the first Japanese stories about ghosts to become a movie in 1910. With numerous re-editions over the years, it is perhaps the most productive one among cinema, television adaptations and Pink Movie, Japanese Soft Porno genre.

The beautiful Otsuyu

Photo credits: pinterest.com 

The legend  says that during the first night of the Obon (the commemoration of the dead according to the Japanese Buddhist tradition) the samurai Ogiwara Shinnojo meets a beautiful woman and her child servant. The two hold in their hands the traditional lanterns of peonies and the samurai asks the child the name of the beautiful woman. Otsuyu was her name and the samurai is not able to do anything but fall madly in love and swear his eternal love for her that same night. From then on, the two meet every night burning with passion for each other. However, the beautiful woman and the child would always disappear before dawn. Because of this strange behavior, and also because of a sudden illness of the man, an old neighbor gets suspicious. Entering his house, he discovers that the samurai was not laying in bed with a beautiful woman but with a skeleton! The old neighbor then speaks with a priest who in turn warns Ogiwara that discovers that his beloved is actually a ghost. Ogiwara also understands that his illness is due to the fact that sleeping with a spirit consumes the vital energy of a person. The priest blesses the house of the samurai leaving protective spells and good luck charms so that the woman and the child cannot enter it anymore. The same evening the woman tries in vain to reach her beloved but, failing, desperately screams her love for Ogiwara, that eventually yields letting her enter the house. The next morning, the neighbor and the priest find Ogiwara dead clutching the skeleton of Otsuyu.

From the horror style of the Edo period to the romanticism of the Meiji period.  

Photo credits: tumblr.com 

The Kabuki version of this story is very famous, but there is a substantial difference between the two. In the theatrical versions, in fact, the protagonists know each other before the death of Otsuyu. Their families have been close for a long time and this had encouraged the birth of love between them. This version is the perhaps the most renowned one as it is pregnant with romance from beginning to end. Their love, the youthful passion, and then the frustration for a forced separation cause by the boy's illness. During this period of separation Otsuyu dies believing that Saburo had not survived. But Saburo recovers and, desperate for the death of the girl prays to her spirit during the Obon festival. That same evening, he meets on his way home a woman and her servant holding a lantern of peonies. To his great joy, the young man realizes that the woman is his Otsuyu who, from that night on, will go visit him every night. But their joy will not last long. In fact, a servant, spying from a crack in the wall of Saburo's room, realizes that in reality he lies every night with a skeleton. A Buddhist priest is immediately called and talismans are attached to the door of the house to prevent the spirit from entering. Yet, every night the girl returns to cry out her love for Saburo, who, desperate for the new separation, falls ill again. But the awareness of loving her anyway and despite everything means only one thing. Death! The talismans are removed to allow the spirit to enter once again. For the last time. However, the young protagonist dies happily in the arms of the one he loves.

This difference of themes can be attributed to the different periods in which the two versions were written. The original one dates back to the Edo period with the macabre vein that characterizes the Japanese folklore of the time. The theatrical one is more recent and sees the light in the Meiji period, the period in which Japan approaches the West thanks to the opening of Emperor Mutsuhito. Opening that did not occur only on a political level, but also on a cultural level thus influencing tastes and customs, and this legend is an example.[:ja]

Botan Dōrō

The Peony Lantern

Photo credits: allabout-japan.com

There are many stories where unlucky lovers are separated by destiny that sometimes leads them to death together (Romeo and Juliet and Tristan and Isolde are the most famous). But none is like the story Botan Dōrō or The Peony lantern (牡丹 燈籠). Two lovers, divided by the world of the living and the world of the dead, are inextricably bounded by their oath of eternal love.

This legend sees the light in the book Jiandeng Xinhua written by Qu You during the first part of the Ming dynasty. Subsequently, it was revived during the Edo period by the Buddhist writer and priest Asai Ryōi on the wave of the Kaidan phenomenon (怪 談). This Japanese term refers to all those stories that tell of mystery and ghosts, written with two kanji: Kai (怪) that means "strange, mysterious, enchanted appearance" and Dan (談) "recited narration".

This legend is recognized as one of the first Japanese stories about ghosts to become a movie in 1910. With numerous re-editions over the years, it is perhaps the most productive one among cinema, television adaptations and Pink Movie, Japanese Soft Porno genre.

The beautiful Otsuyu

Photo credits: pinterest.com 

The legend  says that during the first night of the Obon (the commemoration of the dead according to the Japanese Buddhist tradition) the samurai Ogiwara Shinnojo meets a beautiful woman and her child servant. The two hold in their hands the traditional lanterns of peonies and the samurai asks the child the name of the beautiful woman. Otsuyu was her name and the samurai is not able to do anything but fall madly in love and swear his eternal love for her that same night. From then on, the two meet every night burning with passion for each other. However, the beautiful woman and the child would always disappear before dawn. Because of this strange behavior, and also because of a sudden illness of the man, an old neighbor gets suspicious. Entering his house, he discovers that the samurai was not laying in bed with a beautiful woman but with a skeleton! The old neighbor then speaks with a priest who in turn warns Ogiwara that discovers that his beloved is actually a ghost. Ogiwara also understands that his illness is due to the fact that sleeping with a spirit consumes the vital energy of a person. The priest blesses the house of the samurai leaving protective spells and good luck charms so that the woman and the child cannot enter it anymore. The same evening the woman tries in vain to reach her beloved but, failing, desperately screams her love for Ogiwara, that eventually yields letting her enter the house. The next morning, the neighbor and the priest find Ogiwara dead clutching the skeleton of Otsuyu.

From the horror style of the Edo period to the romanticism of the Meiji period.  

Photo credits: tumblr.com 

The Kabuki version of this story is very famous, but there is a substantial difference between the two. In the theatrical versions, in fact, the protagonists know each other before the death of Otsuyu. Their families have been close for a long time and this had encouraged the birth of love between them. This version is the perhaps the most renowned one as it is pregnant with romance from beginning to end. Their love, the youthful passion, and then the frustration for a forced separation cause by the boy's illness. During this period of separation Otsuyu dies believing that Saburo had not survived. But Saburo recovers and, desperate for the death of the girl prays to her spirit during the Obon festival. That same evening, he meets on his way home a woman and her servant holding a lantern of peonies. To his great joy, the young man realizes that the woman is his Otsuyu who, from that night on, will go visit him every night. But their joy will not last long. In fact, a servant, spying from a crack in the wall of Saburo's room, realizes that in reality he lies every night with a skeleton. A Buddhist priest is immediately called and talismans are attached to the door of the house to prevent the spirit from entering. Yet, every night the girl returns to cry out her love for Saburo, who, desperate for the new separation, falls ill again. But the awareness of loving her anyway and despite everything means only one thing. Death! The talismans are removed to allow the spirit to enter once again. For the last time. However, the young protagonist dies happily in the arms of the one he loves.

This difference of themes can be attributed to the different periods in which the two versions were written. The original one dates back to the Edo period with the macabre vein that characterizes the Japanese folklore of the time. The theatrical one is more recent and sees the light in the Meiji period, the period in which Japan approaches the West thanks to the opening of Emperor Mutsuhito. Opening that did not occur only on a political level, but also on a cultural level thus influencing tastes and customs, and this legend is an example.[:]