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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Sanno Matsuri Festival

Sanno Matsuri Festival(山王祭) is being held at Hie Shrine(日枝神社) in Tokyo from June 7th to 17th.
In the Edo Period, most commoners in Edo(old Tokyo) were the parishioners of Sanno Shrine(山王神社, now Hie Shrine) or Kanda Myoujin(神田明神, formerly 神田神社 Kanda Shrine).
The natives of Edo got all excited about festivals, so both shrine parishioners outdid one another in size and extravagance. Finally, it was decided in 1615 to hold both festivals in alternate years in order to reduce the burden on the parishioners. (Now both shrines hold their festivals every year.)

Originally, Sanno Matsuri Festival had been held on the 15th day of the 6th month in the lunar calender(around mid-July in the Gregorian calendar). Kanda Myoujin Festival(神田明神祭) had been held on the 15th day of the 9th month (around mid-October), but is held from May 7th to 18th now.
Only the mikoshi(portable shrines) and floats of the two festivals were allowed into the Edo Castle grounds. It is said that shoguns saw them.

A branch shrine of Hie Shrine in Kawagoe was located to the site of Edo Castle by Ota Doukan (太田道灌,1432-1486) when the castle was built in 1457.
After Tokugawa Ieyasu who was the founder of the Edo Shogunate settled down in the castle, the shrine was relocated outside the castle. The Edo Shogunate had provided generous support to the shrine since its relocation.

Kanda Myoujin Shrine was founded in 730 to honor a Shinto deity. In 1309, the spirit of Taira no Masakado (平将門,?–940) was also enshrined in the shrine.

Taira no Masakado, who was a powerful landowner in the Kanto region, revolted against the government. It was stifled and he was executed in Kyoto.
People living in outlying Kanto region empathized with him because the government in Kyoto discriminated against people living in outlying regions. Taira no Masakado's head was burried by his followers near the shrine.
Extraordinary natural phenomenon occurred around there after its burial. It was believed that an evil spirit having extremely dreadful cursing power turned to the most powerful tutelary god by worshipping the spirit as a god.
After some steps were taken to console his spirit, the shrine started to worship his spirit as a god.

The Edo Shogunate located Kannei-ji Temple(寛永寺) and Kanda Myoujin in a northeasterly direction, and Zoujyou-ji Temple(増上寺) and Sanno Shrine in a southwesterly direction from Edo Castle.

According to Onmyoudou (陰陽道) based on Wu Xing(五行) in ancient China, evil spirits come from the northeast and go out toward northeast. The northeast and the southwest which is the opposite direction of northeast are viewed as anathema.
The Edo Shogunate drew on Masakado's dreadful power to contain evil spirits even though Masakado was regarded as an enemy of the court.

The mound where Tairano Masakado's head are buried is called Masakado-zuka(将門塚), which is loacated at Otemachi(大手町)traditional business district.
After The Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923 and world war Ⅱ, attempts to remove the mound ended in failure by a series of accidents.
The mound is still respected.

"Teito Monogatari (帝都物語,Tale of the Imperial Capital)" is a fantasy/historical fiction that deals with Masakado's spirit,
written by Hiroshi Aramata. It was also made into a movie.

There is no science to Masakado's dreadful power, but it is true that Edo had never been attacked for about 260 years. There was no war in Japan until Commodore Perry's arrival had heightened the country's political uncertainty.

In the Meiji Period, Kanda Myoujin stopped to worship Masakado's spirit and it was enshrined in another shrine. Because Masakado was an enemy of the court. In 1984, it became a god of Kanda Myoujin again.

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