北の生活文化(Spring rites and ceremonies)

 

 

北の生活文化(Spring rites and ceremonies)


 

 
Spring rites and ceremonies
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79. Hina Dolls displayed at the Date Museum of History 80. The ritual commemorating the first seasonal
   event, in Sapporo
 On the third of February, which is the day before the calendrical beginning of spring, a bean-throwing rite is conducted to drive out evil spirits. People of a critical age have evil spirits exorcized at a shrine. These customs have continued over generations after being passed down from the elder members of the family, and there are various rituals based on the belief that the beans used in the rite possess magical powers. These rituals include consuming as many beans as one's age, performing a ceremony on the day of the first thunder and forecasting the fishing catch in the southern part of Hokkaido.

 Hina Matsuri, the girls' doll festival, is conducted on the third of March to wish for the health and happiness of girls in the family. The festival was carried out in accordance with the lunar calendar before the war. At that time people celebrated by decorating a room with a hanging scroll and a pasted rag picture of Hina dolls and serving a sweet drink made form fermented rice, rice cakes and sweets. The decorations employing luxurious Hina dolls that we see today did not become common until the early 1940s.

 The Boys' Festival or Iris Festival is held on the fifth of May to celebrate the growth of the boys in the family by putting up streamers of a flag and carp. The mothers' families gave streamers made of Japanese paper as gifts for the first festival of their sons from the middle of the 1930s. Flag streamers bearing the emblems of both families are offered by mothers' families among those originally from Shikoku. The streamer decorations that we see today became customary among ordinary households beginning in the 1960s.
 
Midsummer rituals around the Bon Festival (Buddhist All Souls' Day)
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81. Star Festival in Tomamae, 1952 82. Bon dance
 Inland settlers from Shikoku and Hyogo prefectures held a midsummer feast in early July when farmers take a holiday after the planting of seeds is completed. Rice cake dumplings covered with sweet bean paste and wheat buns with bean jam filling are served.

 Rituals for the Bon Festival are conducted in August in Hokkaido except in the Hakodate, Nayoro and Nemuro areas where the rituals take place in July. The rites include cleaning tombs on the 7th, arranging offering tables for Bon in front of houses on the 13th in some areas and making fires from husks of wheat and oats in order to receive the visiting souls. On the 13th in the southern part of the island, each family shares the offerings at the grave site and does not bring anything back home. Among the offerings for the Buddhist altars, the Bon tables in the households and at the tombs are festive red rice, gelidium jelly, horse figures made from cucumber and eggplant and snacks made from rice powder. Rice which is washed with water is called Arare and is also brought to the tomb. In the pre-war and post-war periods, the Bon dance used to be carried out in every community with literally all the members of the community participating.

 In parallel with the Bon Festival, the Star Festival and the Candle Festival are carried out. In the latter, pre-school and lower-grade children with paper or tin lanterns in hand visit houses asking for candles by repetitively singing a short rhyme requesting candles and threatening to scratch you twice if they didn't receive any. This widely celebrated children's festival derived from Aomori's Children's Nebuta Festival and the ceremony to drive away insects from rice paddies to ensure a good harvest.
 
Summer, autumn and winter festivities
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83. Kotohira Shrine in Nemuro 84. Lion Dance featuring a legendary Kirin in Kushiro
 The Kotohira Shrine Festival in Nemuro which is the most notable in the eastern region of Hokkaido coincides with the seaweed harvest and is held from August 9 to 11. Along with a countless number of street stalls in the town, the festival features a big sacred palanquin weighing 1.2 tons which is carried on the shoulders of 120 men who are accompanied by floats and dancers from local communities and companies.

 The Autumn Festival is conducted around the 15th of September instead of October as in Honshu because it is already cold and windy in Hokkaido in October. Often farmers who are harvesting their crops of rice, wheat, beans and potatoes in upland farming areas can see from their fields the lion dance, imported from their places of origin as well as a locally developed drumming performance.

 During the Moon Viewing Festival on the 15th of September (or in August according to the lunar calendar) people used to continue harvesting under the bright moonlight rather than admiring the moon. People from Tottori celebrated the festival by preparing azuki bean soup or miso soup with dumplings in the shape of stars and moon in order to forecast the harvest following their traditional customs. Dumplings were made only by men for the offerings to the moon, and rice dumplings covered with sweet bean paste and rice cakes were served on the last seasonal festival of the year, known as Hade no Sekku, on either the 9th, 19th or 29th of September in the southern area of Hokkaido. People originally from the Chugoku and Kinki rigions offered rice dumplings covered with sweet bean paste to "Inoko", the young wild boar that is the deity of rice paddies. In this ritual they express gratitude for the harvests which conclude the agricultural activities of the year.
 
Winter Solstice, Daishi Ko and Christmas
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85. Christmas 86. Former residence of Christian missionaries Rev. and Mrs. Pierson
   (Pierson Memorial House in Kitami)
 On the day of the winter solstice, around the 23rd of December, when the sun is at its southernmost and the daytime is the shortest, after 3 o'clock in the afternoon people in Hokkaido swiftly move around shrunk into their overcoats in the darkening, cold climate. According to custom people consume squash on the day of the winter solstice in belief that it would prevent paralysis. The custom of taking a bath using yuzu citron on this day is not practiced much in Hokkaido due to the difference in types of flora available on the island.

 Daishi Ko used to be carried out near the day of the winter solstice in the southern area of Hokkaido. In this ceremony rice gruel mixed with azuki beans was offered to the blind god who was believed to have many childern along with a pair of long chopsticks to help the god feed the children. Rice gruel of the above mentioned kind was served in each household.

 There are many churches located in various areas including Sapporo and Hakodate as a consequence of the opening of Hakodate port in the middle of the 19th century and the invitation of many foreign advisors by the Hokkaido Development Commission. Many of those residing in these communities had the opportunity to participate in the solemnly conducted Christmas services even though they were not Christians. Christmas trees and Christmas cake were introduced to ordinary households from the early 1950s, and men often went to entertainment districts after work on Christmas Eve from the late 1950s to the 1970s. Next to New Year's Day, people celebrate with family and friends at Christmas more than on any other festive occasion.
 
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