Tokyo Jidai Matsuri 

Tokyo Jidai Matsuri is a historical parade of Tokyo's epochs. It was first held in 1999 to celebrate Asakusa as a unique historical and cultural centre. Ota Dokan built Edo Castle (now the Imperial Palace) about 540 years ago and Tokugawa Ieyasu arrived in Edo about 400 years ago. Yet Asakusa is even older dating back to the year 628 when an image of Kannon emerged from the Sumidagawa River and was worshipped in this area. A community developed around Sensoji Temple and particularly during the Edo era the temple flourished as the centre of popular Edo culture.

Edo fishermen brothers found a Goddess of Mercy statue in the Sumida River  

 These two fishermen were Hinokuma no Hamanari and Takenari. A wealthy landowner built a small temple for the statue and the brothers converted to Buddhism. The temple eventually became today's Sensoji Temple. Next to Sensoji Temple is Asakusa Shrine.

 

Ota Dokan (1432-1486) and Yamabuki Girl

 Dokan was a mighty warrior in the middle of Muromachi era. One day when he went out for hunting it began raining. The hunt stopped by a humble farmhouse and asked a girl for a straw cloak (mino). She went backroom but returned with a branch of bright yellow Japanese flower (yamabuki). The girl handed the flower to Dokan and recited a poem:

 a yamabuki blooms in seven or eight petals, yet it bears no fruit

 nanae yae hana ha sakedomo yamabuki no mino hitotsu dani naki zo kanasiki

 Puzzled Dokan went back to the castle and asked his men about the poem. A knowledgeable man said that it was quoted from an ancient volume of poems, a poem composed by an imperial prince. The girl apologised for unavailability of straw cloak by using a metaphor. It is said that Dokan was ashamed of his ignorance and started to learn the classics after that.

 

Seven Gods of Good Fortune (Shichifukujin)

 There is the set of seven lucky gods in Japan: Ebisu, Daikokuten, Benzaiten, Jurojin, Fukurokuju, Bishamonten and Hotei. They are deities of Buddhist, Taoist, Shinto, and Hindu origins representing the seven essential human virtues: dignity, kindness, magnanimity, frankness, popularity, prosperity, and longevity. These gods became patrons of business, agriculture, art, wisdom, long life, luck, and happiness.

 On New Year's Eve the seven gods enter port together on their treasure ship (takarabune) to bring happiness to everyone. On the night of January First you should put under your pillow a picture of the gods aboard. If you have a lucky dream that night you will be lucky for the whole year. Another tradition is to make a pilgrimage (meguri) to seven shrines or temples dedicated to the seven gods. It is also thought that if a person rubs the image of Daikokuten prosperity and wealth will come to him or her.

 Seven has been an auspicious number around the world. Ancient Japan was divided into seven districts, there are seven basic principles of the Samurai's philosophy, the Japanese Star Festival (Tanabata) is on the seventh day of the seventh month, a baby's birth is celebrated on the seventh day, a death is mourned for seven days and again after seven weeks. In Japanese Buddhism there are seven reincarnations.

 

Statue of Yakushi

 Believers rub the statue of Yakushi. Then they touch the same part of their body praying for Yakushi to heal their ailments. The rubbing tradition also exists for Daikokuten and for Binzuru who was the first one of Buddha’s sixteen disciples. Shaka praised Binzuru who used the miracle power for the world and made efforts cultivating ordinary people instead of entering Nirvana.

Oiran (Tayu) Dochu Procession

 The Oiran courtesan of Edo is escorted by two young female attendants. Her steps are exaggeratedly slow swinging from the hip to gain attention. The feet take figure-eight strides so that the man's shoulder is needed to steady her.


 

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