Kari Grohn's Home Page - Japan - Hiraizumi



Anciently the area around Hiraizumi was called Oshu
It was the land of the Fujiwaras

In the 12th century, a golden, sophisticated, and graceful culture appeared in a wild land called Oshu. It was the north-eastern part of Honsu. Oshu, nowadays known as Tohoku, was the best gold producing district at that time. Supported by lacquer ware production and horse breeding, the Fujiwara family of Oshu used their economic strength and political abilities to create a magnificent aristocratic culture. The family became a powerful ruler of northern Japan and enjoyed the great luxury until their tragic end. Their close relationship with Minamoto no Yoshitsune (1159-1189) resulted in the family’s ruin. 
Yoshitsune was getting estranged with his half brother Shogun Yoritomo after their allied force destroyed the Heike. He fled and asked the Fujiwaras for help. The family could not reject Yoshitsune, which incurred Yoritomo’s wrath. He attacked the Fujiwaras with overwhelming military power. Thus the prosperity that lasted three generations came to end in 1189. The magnificent buildings and structures in Hiraizumi were reduced to ashes except the Golden Hall. 





A blaze of scarlet tinged autumn leaves is a showstopping view at Chusonji temple. A local kagura dance is match for autumn foliage. An English woman was a member of the dance group. She was married to a Japanese man and they had two children. The dancers were going to visit England and perform in Hyde Park, London. 
















Tohoku beauties
Tohoku is famous for its beauties and good sake. I met Akita beauties, Aomori beauties and Niigata beauties. But I also found beauties and good sake in other areas. Is this a matter of taste? In my case the question might be about the lack of taste, because I can enjoy a wide variety of things. In my wife’s opinion the correct answer is the lack of taste. 













Shishi Odori (Lion Dance)

There is a variety of shishi odori throughout Japan. Shishi odori in Hiraizumi is a deer dance. Dancers wear shishi-gashira (deer mask) decorated with antlers and incorporate deer’s behaviour into the energetic dance. Shishi odori was originally performed as a type of wake. When a hunter killed a deer, its vengeful spirit had to be pacified. 
Shishi is translated as lion but it also refers to a deer or dog with magical properties and the power to repel evil spirits. Shishi-mai (lion dance) is part of the New Year’s festival, when shishigashira performers visit each home in the neighbourhood to cast charms against evil spirits and diseases while receiving offerings. Shishigashira is placed near a newborn baby boy because the lion's magic is believed to protect the boy from evil spirits and misfortune. A pair of shishi traditionally stands outside the gates of Shinto shrines and Buddhist templesShishi Odori (Lion Dance)









Ennen-no-mai dance at Motsuji temple is dedicated to the god Matarajin. Most solemn and mystic of its performances is rojo. It is a dance of an old woman with white hair, a folding fan and bell rattle. Soundless slow movements of rojo make the audience forget the passing of time. Originally ennen was a combination of performing arts including dances, plays, songs, and prayers like sarugaku, dengaku, bugaku, rojo, imayo, furyu, hanaori, chokushi mai, karashi, roei and norito. Ennen was based on the faith that the enjoyment of entertainment would prolong life. It was the past-meeting banquet held by priests at temples after hoe, the ceremonial reading of sutras. Literally ennen means long life, and it was presented to remove all evil and to pray for a long life and happiness. Earlier the priests who were good at dance and music performed ennen, but later professional entertainers took their place. 













Chusonji Noh

Noh theatre performed on the open air stage of Chusonji’s Hakusan shrine.






















The Golden Hall of Chusonji temple was built in 1124. The interior and exterior of the hall is plated with glittering gold. The temple was originally founded in 850 and rebuilt by the Fujiwara family. Restoration of buildings of the temple started 1105 and lasted for 21 years. In the finished complex there were over 40 temples and shrines. The oldest Buddhist garden of paradise in Japan is in front of the Motsuji temple. 
A famous poem from Oku No Hosomichi (The Narrow Road to the Deep North) was created by Matsuo Basho in Hiraizumi. 

Even the long rain of May
Has left it untouched –
This Gold Chapel
Aglow in the sombre shade
(samidare no furinokosite ya hikarido)

A thicket of summer grass
Is all the remains
Of the dreams and ambitions
Of ancient warriors
(natsukusa ya tsuwamonodomo ga yume no ato)