Spiritual KANSAI Series Blog11 : GRATITUDE
2 Mar 2021
The Kansai region is a sacred place for Japanese spiritual culture, and Kansai is full of genuine hospitality. We tried to extract various themes and put them together in columns under the title of "Spiritual KANSAI". In this blog series, we will introduce these columns in order. The 9th in the series is " GRATITUDE ". (The following text is quoted from the Spiritual KANSAI column page (https://kansaiguide.jp/rt/eng/column/) of this site)
Yamamoto Noh Theater
The Yamamoto Noh theater is located in the metropolis of Osaka.
A Noh theater that has existed for the past 93 years. Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the lord who built the Osaka Castle in the 16th century was a great admirer of the Noh. He liked it so much that he even took the stage himself. Thus, to prolong the pleasure as it was for the famous lord, this theater offers workshops and other introductions to traditional Japanese performing arts.
Ningyo Joruri is an art traveling through 500 years. This art combines the dramatic narration told by a Tayu, music played on the shamisen, and puppets which requires to be manipulated by three people for each.
The puppets, which weigh 6 kilos on the scales, are carved out of wood. The painting of the face is made with shell powder and the hair is made with real human hair. Inside the head is hollowed out to place a system of strings used to move the eyes, mouth or eyebrows. The body is completely gut to insert the arm. One of the puppeteers is in charge of the head and the left hand, the second of the right hand, and the third manages the legs and gives the puppet the power of walking.
Inside the head is hollowed out to place a system of strings used to move the eyes, mouth or eyebrows. The body is completely gut to insert the arm. One of the puppeteers is in charge of the head and the left hand, the second of the right hand, and the third manages the legs and gives the puppet the power of walking.
The life breathed into these inanimate bodies thanks to the skill of the manipulators is such an amazing experience. Even so they are visible on stage, their presence is very quickly forgotten when you get caught up into the game.
Every day, at the Awa Jurobe Yashiki Puppet Theater and Museum in Tokushima, it is possible to attend two performances of Joruri.
Indeed, this is particularly interesting to see the processes of doll making and the handling systems on site. The work behind each performance can this way be better appreciated.
Saga Dainenbutsu Kyogen
In the enclosure of the Seiryo-ji Buddhist temple, soul of Arashiyama, it is possible to find a building hiding a stage. There are regular performances of Nenbutsu Kyogen, that should not be mistaken with the comic kyogen of the intermissions of the Noh. It’s commonly said that the religious theme created forms as Buddhism interpretation. Each performance ends with a ceremony with a priest.
The actors, all men, masked and have no lines of text to say. Everything is done through movements and gestures, which are deliberately exaggerated to be explicit. At the back of the stage, three musicians set the tempo of the show, the rhythm of the gong, the drum and the flute.
Whatever is the season, festivals set the rhythm of Japanese life as a true metronome. These typical and popular festivals, which bring together people no matter the age or social status and origins took place for the first time several centuries ago, are landmarks of the current year. They are special occasions for the local people or the inhabitants of the town to celebrate a tradition that keeps going through time. Sometimes it is a whole year of preparation and rehearsals that are necessary for the festival to be celebrated in the most safe and smooth conditions.
Even if they are mostly associated with Buddhist or Shinto celebrations, there are matsuri to celebrate everything. For example, one can be held to pray for a good rice harvest or fertility, repelling demons or preventing disasters, or celebrating the birth of Buddha. There are thousands of them all over Japan and take place any time of the year.
About Gion Matsuri
Among the most famous festivals in the country, the Gion Matsuri has a special place as it has taken place since 1200 years . The festival is held during the month of July and the whole city of Kyoto revolves in unison around these numerous celebrations. The highlight consists of a long procession of floats made of wood and ropes, entirely assembled by hand, decorated with the most beautiful ornaments from all over the world, and reaching a height of up to 25 metres. Beyond its appearance as a rolling gallery, it is above all a rite aimed at calming the deities responsible for the flooding of the Kamo River.
About the Tenjin Matsuri
Another major festival is the Tenjin matsuri that takes place around the nearby city of Osaka. Two days of festivities under the protection of the God of studies and arts, marked by a procession of 3000 costumed extras and 100 floats, part of the procession taking the Ogawa River under the glow of a great fireworks display that sets the sky on fire