北の生活文化(Preparations for the New Year )

 

 

北の生活文化(Preparations for the New Year )


 

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 Many of the annual pageants of Hokkaido were brought by immigrants from their original villages during the early development period. The rituals which have been transmitted vary depending upon the families and areas in which people live. Quite interestingly, the dates for the events have been changed from the originally designated dates due to climatic and natural conditions when they are held in Hokkaido.
 
Preparations for the New Year
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72. Sacred straw festoon and decoration pines at a house entrance in Moseushi
 Snow starts to fall in the middle of November in Hokkaido when the agricultural activities are finished. In the late 19th century when the modern development began, the settlers' families were busy getting ready for the New Year following the customs of their place of origin. Although hearths had been replaced with stoves, they continued to sweep throughout the entire house even there was no soot. The rice pounding ceremony took place around December 28 as part of the preparations and the whole family thoroughly enjoyed making a large amount of rice cakes. The rice was pounded by terms of three persons in families from Tokushima prefecture and by terms of two in families from Niigata. The rice pounding was conducted in households following the customs of the residents' places of origin and this practice continued as long as rice was pounded in mortars, until the early 1960s. On the day of rice pounding, tiny rice cakes were put on the branches of dogwoods or willow trees giving them the appearance of trees in blossom.

 Handmade decorations made from pine branches and sacred straw festoons used to be offered for the god of New Year to rest upon. There is a rhyme in the south of Hokkaido saying that the god of New Year has traveled from the other side of the mountain to one's village with a pine walking staff and a hat made from a Yuzu citron leaf. Dried seaweed, squid, Daphniphyllum macropodum and pendant paper strips for Shinto rites are often put between the segments of straw festoons still today. In Hokkaido, fir and Japanese red pine trees used to be logged in the mountain forests for the decorative pine branches placed at the gates of houses.
 
The first three days of the New Year and New Year week
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74. Visit to the shrine on the New Year's day
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75. Wooden card game of the hundred poems by
   hundred poets for the New Year's holiday, 1952
76. Zohni, a soup with a rice cake which is a special
   dish for the New Year's feast
 People in the past observed the arrival of the god of New Year on December 31 and men drew the first water on the morning of New Year's Day at the tolling of the bell ringing out the old year from the temple. People in some households made the first fire of the year on the eve of New Year instead of on New Year's Day prior to their visit to the shrine where they worshiped the guardian deity of their community. The crackling sound of a fire was believed to bring good luck and soybean husks were used in making a fire in wishes for the family to lead a healthy and active life. (The Japanese word for beans, "mame" phonetically associates with the word that symbolizes a healthy and active life). People didn't dare to clean the house for fear that they might sweep away good luck.

 "Zohni" (rice cake soup) is one of the dishes prepared for the New Year's feast reflecting the traditional customs that the family inherited. People whose ancestors came from Kagawa and Tokushima prefectures prepare a miso flavored soup with a round rice cake with sweet beans inside, while those from Ishikawa and Tottori prefectures have a soup containing azuki beans and those from Tohoku and Hokuriku have a soy sauce flavored soup with a square rice cake.

 On the third and fifth days, rice cakes are served in different styles with sweet beans, ground sesame seed sauce and soybean flour in the south of Hokkaido. On the seventh day, the sacred straw festoon was removed.

 Rice gruel with rice cake was prepared using vegetables which were accessible in midwinter in Hokkaido including Japanese radishes, carrots, and burdock instead of the seven designated vegetables.
 
Ko-shogatsu and Oshiroi "Face Powder" Festival
 
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77. Feast following the ritual on the first day of the zodical
   horse in February
78. Udomari Inari Shrine
 The 15th of January is referred to as New Year's Day for women, the 13th as rice pounding day for women and the 14th as New Yrar's Eve for women in the south of Hokkaido and Aomori prefecture. These rituals are related to major agricultural activities and are conducted to wish for a good harvest.

 People whose ancestors came from Awaji prepare rice gruel with azuki beans which is offered to the deity as it departs from the human domain to promote its return the following yrar. People from Miyagi prefecture call gruel of this kind "the gruel of a dawn" and put a gruel on a sacred straw festoon and burn it when they send it back to its domain on the 15th. They put dumplings on branches of a dogwood tree in the rooms on the 19th where a festoon had been placed. People from Toyama prefecture refer to the 15th as May or the day of rice planting, and make an azuki bean soup with rice powder dumplings in the shapes of a hoe and a straw rice bag. They forecast the conditions for plowing a rice nursery and wish for a good harvest. Also, children put gruel on fruit trees to wish for them to bear fruit.

 During midwinter in communities along the Japan Sea coast Oshiroi Matsuri is held. This is a festival where faces are painted white and is conducted on the first day of the horse during the second month of the year in accordance with the twelve zodiacal signs. Dumplings made from rice powder are offered to the deity which are then added with water and used as a paint which is called "Shitogi." "Shitogi" symbolizes herring milt and is applied to the faces of fishermen in a ritual to pray for safety and a good herring catch. The festival is now carried out only at the Kitahiyama Udomari Shrine.
 
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