Hachiman Shrines Festivals


Hachiman Shrines and their festivals

***** Location: Japan
***** Season: Variuos, see below
***** Category: Observance


The Warrior Deity Hachiman 八幡神, deifiction of Emperor Oojin 応神天皇 Ojin,
is quite popular in Japan and there are many shrines in his name. Another reading of the Chinese characters is YAHATA or YAWATA.

僧形八幡神坐像 東大寺八幡殿蔵
Hachiman as a monk, soogyoo Hachiman
Temple Todai-Ji, Hachiman Hall

Today there are approximately 30,000 Hachimangū shrines nationwide, with the head shrine at
Usa Hachimangū 宇佐八幡宮 Usa Hachimangu in Ōita.

Read the details HERE
. Hachiman and the Hachimangu Shrines  
Mark Schumacher

The oldest Hachiman Shrine in Japan
. Konda Hachimanguu 誉田八幡宮 / 譽田八幡宮 Konda Hachiman . Habikino, Osaka 大阪府羽曳野市誉田三丁目2-8


I lived close to the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu in Kamakura and practised archery (kyudo) in the training hall there for many years.
The annual Yabusame horseback riding and shooting was one of the most impressive events I have seen in Japan.

The dove (hato) in the shrine name board as hachi 八 .
The dove is the messenger of Emperor Ojin.
There are many doves kept in the shrine compound.

. hato 鳩 dove, pidgeon, Taube - in art and amulet .

. Legends about Hachiman Shrines 八幡宮 / 八幡神社 .


Usa Hachimangu, Oita 宇佐八幡宮

The faith of Hachiman began at Usa Hachimangū and the location of this shrine and five other Hachiman shrines (gosho betsugū) in the Kyūshū area (the five shrines are Chikuzen's Daibu Hachiman, Hizen's Chiriku Hachiman, Higo's Fujisaki Hachiman, Satsuma's Nitta Jinja, and Ōsumi's Shō Hachimangū) show that the faith developed in the Kyushu area in ancient times.

When the temple Tōdaiji's Great Buddha was constructed in the Nara period, the "shrine priestess" (negini) of Usa, Ōga no Ason Morime, traveled to the capital and received a "message" (takusen) from Hachiman saying that the kami would assist in the sculpture's construction, thus introducing the cult of Hachiman to the center of Japan. Being located close to the continent, Hachimangū was at the forefront for receiving cultural influences from there and because of this, "kami and Buddha syncretism" (shinbutsu shūgū) developed there quite early.

Temples related to Hachiman existed in the Hakuhō Period and these were consolidated into the "shrine temple complex" (jingūji) Miroku Temple, which was established in 725. The journey of Hachiman to the capital and the oracle (takusen) accelerated the tide of shinbutsu shūgō syncretism in the central regions. In 781 the imperial court awarded the kami the "kami title" (shingō) "Daibosatsu" (Gokoku reigen iriki jintsū daibosatsu) and images of Hachiman were produced depicting him as a monk. From this, we can see that compared to other shrines, the cult of Hachiman had particularly strong shinbutsu shūgō syncretic qualities. Thus there are many examples of Hachiman shrines "established" (kanjō) as the guardian shrines (chinjusha) of such temples as Daianji, Tōdaiji, Yakushiji, and Tōji.
Likewise, the Hōjō-e festival at Hachimangū originates from a Buddhist ritual of releasing living animals that is based on Buddhist prohibitions against killing.

In 720 there was an uprising of the Hayato people from the regions of Ōsumi and Hyūga and many Hayato people were killed during its suppression. It is said that Usa-Hachiman was established in order to expiate the sins of killing incurred during this suppression. This story is told at Hachiman shrines in various regions. In the late Nara Period, Wake no Kiyomaro received a takusen from Hachiman which thwarted the monk Dōkyō's scheme to usurp the throne. This incident strengthened Hachiman's character as a guardian kami of the imperial house.

In 860 according to the activities of the monk Gyōkyō of Daianji, an emanation of Hachiman was brought from Usa and established (kanjō) as the shrine Iwashimizu Hachimangū. This shrine became the focal point for the cult of Hachiman in the capital. The shrine was called Iwashimizu Hachimangū Gokokuji, and was structured as a "shrine temple system" (miyaderasei) in which "shrine monks" (shasō) such as kengyō or bettō took control of the shrine's management. Shinbutsu shūgō developed further at the shrine and the "original Buddha" (honji butsu) assigned to the kami Hachiman was the Buddha Amida (Amitābha).

Later Iwashimizu was included in the "twenty-two shrines" (nijūnisha) and was ranked just below Ise Jingū. At the end of the eleventh century Hachiman and Ise were called the "Two Imperial Mausoleums" (nisho sōbyō)and Hachiman attained the status of imperial ancestral kami. Based on this status, Hachiman also came to be regarded as the "clan kami" (ujigami) of the Genji clan. Thus Minamoto no Yoshiie had his coming of age ceremony (genpuku) at Iwashimizu Hachimangū and called himself Hachiman Tarō.

Hachiman's character as the ujigami of the Sewa emperor lineage Genji clan come to the forefront and at the end of the Heian Period the shrine Tsurugaoka Hachimangū was "established" (kanjō) in Kamakura. In the medieval period, Hachiman developed from the Genji clan's ujigami into the guardian kami of the warrior class, and many Hachiman shrines were established (kanjō) on estates (shōen) in various regions as the "tutelary guardian of those areas" (chinjugami).
source : Satō Masato, Kokugiakuin University, 2007

. Yusuhara Hachiman-gū 柞原八幡宮 Yusuhara Hachimangu .
Oita 大分県, Hamanoichi (Hama no Ichi) 浜の市


A Hachiman shrine (八幡神社 Hachiman Jinja, also Hachiman-gū (八幡宮))
is a Shinto shrine dedicated to kami Hachiman.
- - - More in the WIKIPEDIA !

< . Minamoto no Yoshiie Hachimantaro 源八幡太郎義家 .
(1039 – 4 August 1106)
- - - - - and his wife Akashi hime 明石姫

. Hidaka Jinja 日高神社 Hidaka Shrine .
- and Hachimantaro in Mizusawa, Iwate


kigo for the New Year

Tomo Hachiman no on yumi shinji
鞆八幡の御弓神事 (ともはちまんのおゆみしんじ)
bow ritual at Tomo Hachiman
鞆八幡神社(沼名前神社), Numakuma Jinja 沼名前神社お弓神事
Fukuyama, Hiroshima prefecture

This festival dates back in legend, when emperess Jingu made an offering of a tomo 鞆wrist cover for archery to this shrine. It is now held as a new year ceremony on February 15 to pray for avoidance of evil and a peaceful year.
. . . CLICK here for Photos !


Tsurugaoka Hachimanguu no go-han itadaki
鶴岡八幡宮御璽頂き (つるがおかはちまんぐうのごはんいただき)
getting a seal at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu

January 1 till 5、the main is on January 3.
Nowadays it is also called Gohan Gyooji 御判行事
The official new "seal of the deity" is brought to the stamp office in the shrine compounds. The seal is held to the parts of the believers that hurt and they will be healed from their suffering.
A seal from the Bull deity Go-O 牛王宝印 is stamped on paper, put on bamboo skewers and given to the people. This ritual dates back to the Kamakura period, when the samurai prayed for good fortune in the coming year.

Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, see below.


hatsugatsuo no shinku 初鰹神供 (はつがつおのしんく)
offering first katsuo bonito

During the Edo period, Kamakura was famous for the first bonito to be fished at the beaches of the inlay. The very first ones were offered at Hachimangu with prayers for a good fishing season.
This was usually done in January or february.
In newer years, the first fish of the year landing on the beach of Kamakura was called "ofuri おふり" and offered to the deities.

. first bonito, hatsu gatsuo, hatsugatsuo 初鰹 (はつがつお) .
kigo for early summer

Kamakura o ikite ideken hatsu-gatsuo

you made it
past Kamakura alive -
first Katsuo bonito

Written in 元禄5年, Basho age 49
Basho was well aware of the customs of Edo, where the first Katsuo was an expensive delicacy unknown in his homeland, Iga.
The bonito from Kamakura was then carried to Edo as a present to the Shogun.

In 1672, prior to taking his formal penname, Basho arrived in Edo and lived near the Nihonbashi Uogashi for a time.

The first bonito of the year
Amazingly fresh
They would have been alive when they left Kamakura

This is a haiku poem in which Basho describes the first bonito catches of the year. Basho lived in the residence of Sugiyama Sanpu ...
. Sugiyama Sanpu 杉山杉風 (Sampu) .   

Haiku about place names by
. Matsuo Basho 松尾芭蕉 - Archives of the WKD .

. WKD : Kamakura 鎌倉 a haiku town .

Another hokku by Kikaku about the expensive first Bonito :

on the chopping board
a golden thaler -
first bonito


Yahata mairi 八幡参(やはたまいり)
Visiting Yahata shrine

Yakujin mairi 厄神詣 (やくじんまいり) Visiting the Yakujin deity
yakujin is an evil deity that brings bad luck and diseases. He has to be appeased at the beginning of the year.
Yakuyoke 厄除けの神 is a god deity like Hachiman, who prevents bad luck.

yakumairi, yaku mairi 厄参(やくまいり), yakumoode 厄詣(やくもうで)
Yahata ekijin moode 八幡厄神詣(やはたえきじんもうで)
Yahata miyage 八幡土産(やはたみやげ) souvenirs from Yahata
Yahatagoi, yahata koi八幡鯉(やはたごい) carp from Yahata
Yakujinsai 厄神祭(やくじんさい)Festival of the Yakujin
Aoyama matsuri 青山祭(あおやままつり)Aoyama festival
(another name for the Otokoyama)

On January 28 people went to Iwashimizu Hachimangu in Kyoto (see below) to pray for good fortunes in the coming year, at a small shrine in the Otokoyama mountain. There a sacres space was erected between a bamboo fence (himorogi 神籬)), the south side was open. People threw their talismans from the old year in and the whole was later burned.
As a "souvenir", people took home a New Year Arrow (hamaya) and a carp or dove made from paper, which they stuck into their hair.


kigo for Late Summer

Hachiman yama 八幡山(はちまんやま)
Hachiman float
during the Gion Festival
祗園会 (ぎおんえ)

Reference : Gion Festival Kyoto


kigo for Early Autumn

Fukagawa Hachiman matsuri
Hachiman festival at Fukagawa, Tokyo

. . . CLICK here for Photos !
Fukagawa matsuri 深川祭 ふかがわまつり Fukagawa festival
Tomioka matsuri 富岡祭(とみおかまつり)Tomioka festival

. WKD : Fukagawa Matsuri Festival Haiku .

Tomioka Hachiman-gu 富岡八幡宮 and
Fukagawa Fudo Do (Fudoo Doo) 深川不動堂

Fishing amulet for a cood catch
. Tomioka Hachimangu, Tokyo 富岡八幡宮 .


kigo for Mid-Autumn

Hachiman Matsuri八幡祭(はちまんまつり)
Hachiman Festival

at Shrine Iwashimizu Jinja

hoojoo-e 放生会(ほうじょうえ)
Buddhist ritual of releasing living animals

Yahata hoojoo-e 八幡放生会 (やはたほうじょうえ)

Iwashimizu matsuri 石清水祭(いわしみずまつり)
Iwashimizu Festival

Otokoyama matsuri 男山祭(おとこやままつり)
Festival at Otokoyama

chuushuusai 仲秋祭(ちゅうしゅうさい)mid-autumn festival
nansai 南祭(なんさい)"festival in the South" (of Kyoto)

hoojoogawa 放生川(ほうじょうがわ) river for releasing fish
hanachidori 放ち鳥(はなちどり)releasing birds
hanachigame 放ち亀(はなちがめ)releasing turtles

the name "South Festival" contrasts with the annual festival at shrine Kamo Jinja in the north of Kyoto.
. kita no matsuri 北祭(きたのまつり)"festival in the North"

The Iwashimizu Hachiman-gū (石清水八幡宮) is a Shinto shrine in the city of Yawata in Kyoto Prefecture.
The shrine's Heian period connections with the Kyoto and the Imperial family date from its founding in 859 (Jōgan 1) when construction on its earliest structures commenced. Shrine tradition explains that Emperor Seiwa ordered the shrine to be built in obeisance to an oracle in which Hachiman expressed the desire to be near to Kyoto to watch over the city and the Imperial House of Japan. This vision was reported by a Buddhist monk, Gyōkyō, who had a second vision which led to selecting the Otokoyama location where the shrine now stands.
© More in the WIKIPEDIA !

Rikyu - Hachimangu was originally named
"Iwashimizu (=spring water)-Hachimangu".

. Rikyu Hachimangu Shrine in Oyamazaki-cho .
and the egoma oil connection 荏胡麻油

. Hojo-E 放生会 releasing life animals
and the Heart Pond 心の池 .


. Hakozaki in Fukuoka 福岡県福岡市東区箱崎 .

Hakozaki matsuri 筥崎祭 (はこざきまつり) Hakozaki festival
Hakozaki hoojoo e 筥崎放生会(はこざきほうじょうえ)

Hakozaki Hachimanguu 福岡筥崎八幡宮 Hachimangu shrine in Fukuoka
September 12 - 18
It is one of the three great festivals in Fukuoka.

Hakozaki Shrine was founded in 923, with the transfer of the spirit of the kami Hachiman from Daibu Hachiman Shrine in what is Honami Commandry, Chikuzen Province in Kyūshū.
The annual Tamaseseri Festival (January 3) and the
Hojoya Festival (September 12–18) attract many to visit the shrine.
© More in the WIKIPEDIA !

. . . CLICK here for Photos of the shrine !


Usa matsuri 宇佐祭(うさまつり) Usa festival
Usa hoojoo e 宇佐放生会 (うさほうじょうえ)
at Usa Hachimangu 宇佐八幡宮 in Oita.

To appease the souls of warriours, now shells and clams are released into the sea.

Because of its mixed religious ancestry, one of the important festivals at the shrine is the hōjō-e (放生会), originally a Buddhist ceremony in which captive birds and fish are released.
The ceremony is accompanied by sacred kagura dances meant to commemorate the souls of fish killed by fishermen during the previous year. This syncretic rite fusing Buddhism and Shinto, now performed in many shrines all over the country, took first place here.

Emperor Ojin, who was deified as Hachiman-jin (the tutelary god of warriors), is said to be enshrined in all the sites dedicated to him; and the first and earliest of these was at Usa in the early 8th century. The Usa jingū 宇佐神宮 has long been the recipient of Imperial patronage; and its prestige is considered second only to that of Ise.
© More in the WIKIPEDIA !


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Yabusame 流鏑馬

Tsurugaoka Hachiman matsuri
Festival at Tsurugaoka Hachiman shrine

Tsurugaoka matsuri 鶴岡祭 つるがおかまつり
Kamakura Hachiman matsuri
. . . CLICK here for Photos !

yabusame 流鏑馬(やぶさめ)archery on horseback

Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū (鶴岡八幡宮) is the most important Shinto shrine in the city of Kamakura.

This shrine, which used to be also a Buddhist temple and far bigger than today, was originally built in 1063 in Zaimokuza where tiny Moto Hachiman now stands, and dedicated to the Emperor Ōjin, (deified with the name Hachiman, the god of war), his mother Empress Jingu and his wife Hime-gami. Minamoto no Yoritomo, the founder of the Kamakura shogunate, moved it to its present location in 1191 and invited Hachiman (from Iwashimizu Hachiman Shrine) to reside in the new location to protect his government.

The present location was carefully chosen as the most propitious after consulting a diviner because it had a mountain to the north (the Hokuzan (北山)), a river to the east (the Namerikawa 滑川), a great road to the west (the Kotō Kaidō (古東街道)) and was open to the south (on Sagami Bay).

There are a number of sub-shrines on the site, the most important of which are the Junior Shrine (Wakamiya (鶴岡八幡宮若宮(下宮)) at the bottom, and the Senior Shrine (Hongū (本宮)) 61 steps above. The present Senior Shrine building was constructed in 1828 by Tokugawa Ienari, the 11th Tokugawa shogun.

Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū is now just a Shinto shrine but, for the almost 700 years from its foundation until the Shinto and Buddhism Separation Order (神仏判然令) of 1868, its name was Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū-ji (鶴岡八幡宮寺) and it was also a Buddhist temple, one of the oldest in Kamakura.

Also in the compounds are

Maiden (舞殿) Dance Hall
Shirahata Jinja (白旗神社) shrine
Maruyama Inari sha (丸山稲荷社) shrine
Hataage Benzaiten Shrine (旗上弁財天社) Hata-age

© More in the WIKIPEDIA !

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The great Gingko Tree

. Wakamiya Hachimangu 若宮八幡宮 Shrines list .


kigo for late Autumn

. Nada Fighting Festival (Nada no Kenka Matsuri)
at Matsubara Hachiman Shrine, Himeji
姫路 松原八幡神社

Worldwide use

Hachiman Daibosatsu 八幡大菩薩
Großer Bodhisattva Hachiman

- quote -
Hachiman Project -
Heidelberg University Germany

The Hachiman Digital Handscrolls Project (HDH) is a pilot study to enhance digital presentations of movable image-and-text formats. The innovative open source system HyperImage is the pivotal tool employed to realize the aims of the project.
offers an innovative access to seven digitized Japanese illuminated hand scrolls ranging from the 14th to the 19th century. Each version tells the same story: The first part covers the prehistoric pregnant Empress Jingû and her alleged conquest of the Korean kingdoms by help of indigenous deities. This colorful myth is followed by the empress’s birth of the future Emperor Ôjin, and his manifestation as the Hachiman deity. Hachiman’s miraculous appearances and oracles as well as the foundation tales of the most famous Hachiman shrines cover the second part of the scrolls. The title of the scrolls reflects the gist of the scrolls,
Karmic Origins of the Great Bodhisattva Hachiman.”
- source : uni-heidelberg.de -

Things found in the Daruma Museum

Mikoshi palanquin 神輿 

The possible origin of "mikoshi" is said to be found in the Nara Period, when the "kami" of the Hachiman Shrine in Usa was invited on a purple palanquin to Nara for the constructin of the "Daibutsu" Great Statue of Budda.

Matsuri : Festivals in Japan


Yakushi-Ji temple, Nara

The approach to Yakushiji is along a winding path that passes the
Yasumigaoka Hachimangu 休岡八幡宮(やすみがおか はちまんぐう).
This building was constructed in 1603 and is still used to celebrate the Hachiman Festival on September 15th. If you visit at this time, you may be lucky enough to see the local children's sumo competition.
It is the shrine dedicated to Hachiman, here as a protector deity of Yakushiji, founded around 889, with its present structures from 1603.
Temple Yakushi-Ji Nara


The Deity for tuesday, kayoosei 火曜星(かようせい)
Hachiman Daibosatsu 八幡大菩薩) (六白金星)
and the Nine Stars Crest ... 九曜紋 ... Kuyoo Mon
. . . CLICK here for Photos of Great Bodhisattva Hachiman !

. Fuuji Hachimangu 風治八幡宮 Fuji Hachimangu .

Kawagoe Hachimangu 川越八幡宮
..... Sumo Inari Shrine 相撲稲荷

Koo Hachimangu and the Shagiri festival 鴻八幡宮例大祭(しゃぎり
Kurashiki, Okayama prefecture

Hakodate Hachiman Shrine in Yachigashiracho

. Isaniwa Jinja 伊佐爾波神社 - Matsuyama .
Yuzuki Hachiman 湯月八幡 or Dogo Hachiman 道後八幡

Kitamuki Hachiman Shrine 北向八幡宮 Kobe city

Kotozaki Hachimangu 琴崎八幡宮

山口県宇部市上宇部大小路 Yamaguchi, Ube town

. Nishino Jinja 西野神社 Shrine in Sapporo .
Hondawake no mikoto 譽田別命 Homudawake

. Oosaki Hachimangu 大崎八幡宮 Osaki Hachiman Shrine .

The Tamukeyama Shrine became the first branch of the Hachiman shrine from Usa.
Tamukeyama Hachiman Gu 手向山八幡宮

Yoshioka Hachiman Jinja 吉岡八幡神社 Miyagi


When the legendary Empress Jinguu Koogoo (Jingu Kogo) stayed at the Hot Spring Doogo in Matsuyama on the island of Shikoku on her way to the Korean battlefield, she realized that she was pregnant.
To pray for the safe delivery and healthy upbringing of her child, later to become the Emperor Oojin, she had a doll made and offered it to the local Gods. This used to be called the "Roly-poly Doll of Doogo" (Doogo no Okiagari, Dogo no Okiagari). First it was made of wood but later became a papermachee doll. In the last days of February at the Spring Festival of the Matsuyama Shrine and the Iyo Hiko-no-Mikoto Shrine this doll has been sold since more than 200 years ago. It is now a talisman for easy delivery and the healthy upbringing of children and getting well after a disease.

Princess Daruma of Matsuyama


In all shrinesd dedicated to Hachiman the doves (pidgeons) are kept as sacred animals messengers of the deity.

. hatobue 鳩笛 pidgeon whistle, dove flute .


komabato, koma no hato 狛鳩 guardian doves

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Miyake Hachimanguu 三宅八幡宮 Miyake Hachimangu Shrine - Kyoto

The Miyakehachiman Shrine was founded in the reign of Empress Suiko by the envoy to China, Ono no Imoko 小野妹子, who was ill on the trip and got healed by praying to Hachiman.
This shrine is also known as 'Mushihachiman'. It is believed that child's bad health is healed.
- reference -

. koma...  狛  shrine guardian animals .


yakujin 厄神(やくじん)
"deity of preventing bad luck"
"deity to bring bad luck"

Yakujin Myoo-Oo 厄神明王
. . . CLICK here for Photos !
The deities Aizen Myo-O and Fudo-O in one person as preventers of bad luck

Mondo Yakujin 門戸厄神 Mondo the preventor of bad luck
Or an Aizen Myo-O with two faces 両頭愛染

Mondo Yakujin Tookooji
門戸厄神東光寺(もんどやくじん とうこうじ)
Temple Toko-Ji 東光寺 in Hyogo, Nishi no miya town.
. . . CLICK here for Photos !
Especially visitied on January 18 and 19 and the Star Festival on Feburary 3, when people in their "unlucky year 厄年" come to pray for protection.

. Aizen Myo-O 愛染明王

Deity to bring bad fortune and disease
. Yakubyoogami 疫病神
Deity to bring poverty 貧乏神 binboogami, bimboogami

. Yōka 八日様 Yoka Sama, the Honorable Day Eight .
rituals for the 厄神 Yakujin


hakamagi ya Hachimanguu no ujiko tachi

they come clad in Hakama trousers -
all the parishioners
from Hachimangu

. Masaoka Shiki 正岡子規 visiting shrines and temples .

. ujiko 氏子 local worshiper, parishioner .


shiroyama no Hachiman-sai kaze tsuyoshi

at the castle mountain
during the Hachiman festival
the wind is strong

Minagawa Bansui 皆川盤水
At Iwashimizu Hachiman Shrine

Related words

. KAMAKURA - a Haiku Town

. Sacred Animals and Amulets .






gabi Greve said...

yabuiri ya kinoo sugitaru yama-kagura

home for a day --
the Hachiman shamans
danced yesterday

Tr. and comment by Chris Drake:

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

komabato, koma no hato 狛鳩 guardian doves

and other shrine guardian animals

news said...

Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Kamakura

Homepage in English



news said...

Amulets from Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Kamakura

Kachi-mamori To overcome difficulties.
Shoun-mamori For good fortune
O-ichou Ema Great-Ginkgo Votive Tablet;

Kyōun-tsukamiya For great luck; the arrow pins down good luck.


Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

Hachiman Shrines in Tohoku

第七百九十九話「八幡神社(海上)」- Hachiman Jinja
Tono Jisha Meguri 遠野寺社巡り  temples and shrines in Tono , Iwate

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

Kure Hachimangu 久礼八幡宮

高知県高岡郡中土佐町 - Takaoka, Nakatosa

In this shrine the deity of the sea is venerated in the hope for a good catch, especially katsuo Bonito.

Ema votive tablets of the famous katsuo bonito and the sashimi speciality of Tosa.

Gabi Greve said...

Kobayashi Issa

iro tori ya kigi ni mo hana no hoojoo e

fall trees blossom
with so many colors
of birds set free

at Okabe
This hokku is from an anthology edited by Morita Gemmu, one of Issa's early haikai teachers.The 1788 anthology, Haikai on the Fifty-Three Stations, contains hokku about the fifty-three station towns located on the Tokaido Pacific Coastal Road running between Edo and Kyoto. Issa has twelve hokku in the anthology, and the above hokku is in the "Okabe" section. The reference seems to be to the Aoyama Hachiman Shrine, a Shinto shrine near Okabe that held an annual festival on lunar 8/15, the time of the harvest moon, during which fish and birds were freed from captivity. The festival, called Hojo-e, or Ceremony to Free Living Beings, was originally a Buddhist ceremony to pray for freedom for all captive living beings, but the ceremony came to be held at many Shinto shrines as well. Most of these ceremonies were held in the middle of September, and in Edo at this time of year turtles and birds were commonly sold in the streets to people who then released them in hopes of improving their own karma. In Okabe the ceremony to release birds and fish was accompanied by religious dancing by young girls and by other Shinto rituals.

Most trees blossom in spring or early summer, but at the Okabe ceremonies the seasons seem reversed. Many kinds (iro-dori) of autumn birds in cages have been set free, and Issa seems to pun on iro (also 'color') to suggest that the branches of the trees at the shrine look as if they are covered with blossoms that bloom in the colors of the various freed birds that now perch there. Drawing on the extended meaning in Japanese of blossom/flower (hana) as something overflowing with life and vigorous beauty, Issa also seems to imply (with "too" in the second line) that the sacred dances and other ceremonies are turning the people at the festival into human blossoms -- blossoms wearing colorful robes who are spiritually freed for a time by freeing the many blossoming birds.

* This is an autumn verse. The online digital edition of Issa's complete hokku correctly has this hokku in its autumn section: 一茶発句全集(16)-秋の部(3). However, Issa's Complete Works mistakenly has this hokku in the spring section.

Chris Drake

Gabi Greve said...

Oita, Hamanoichi
柞原八幡宮 Yusuhara Hachimangu
ichibun ningyoo 一文人形 dolls with one letter


Gabi Greve said...

Daibosatsu legends 大菩薩 伝説 Dai-Bosatsu
八幡大菩薩 Hachiman Daibosatsu


Gabi Greve said...

Iwashimizu Hachiman in War and Cult
(Fourteenth-Century Voices)
by Royall Tyler (Author)

Gabi Greve said...

天沼八幡神社 Amanuma Hachiman Jinja
東京都杉並区天沼2-18-5 Tokyo Suginami ward

The Shrine dates back more than 400 years.

Gabi Greve said...

Hachiman gudōkun 八幡愚童訓
Hachiman Gudokun (written around 1300)
Tales of the God of War Told to the Simple

"Hachiman Gudokun" is a history of temples and shrines that narrates the miracle and divine virtue of Hachimanshin (Shinto god of War) which is considered to have been compiled in the middle or late Kamakura period.

Gabi Greve said...

Shiga 滋賀県 犬上郡 Inugami district 多賀町 Taga town
During the main festival on November 1 there are many ritual offerings at 八幡神社 the Shrine Hachiman Jinja.
A senjiki dana センジキ棚 special ritual shelf for offering of rice, called senjiki 握り飯(センジキ). When the priest claps his hands two times, the sound will wake two karasu 烏 crows which come to eat the offerings. They are the messengers of this Shrine and are called
okarasu, o-karasu オカラス "venerable crows".

shinshi 神使 messenger of god, divine messenger
kami no o-tsukai 神のお使い / 神の使い