Monday, November 8, 2010

Bellows Festival

The Lotte Marines became Japan Series champions on November 7th, after defeating the Chunichi Dragons in the seventh game at Nagoya Dome. Recently the professional baseball games hover at a low level.  The first, second and fifth games of the Japan Series were not telecast on a national network. But the seventh game received an average viewer rating of 20.6 percent in the Kanto area. I am not very interested in baseball.

Fuigo Matsuri(鞴祭り:Bellows Festival) is a festival to thank the god of fire and pray for workplace safety held by artisans using fire such as blacksmiths, casters and metalsmiths. It was also called Hotake(火焼).

In the Edo period, the artisans damped a fire and got a day off work on this day. They made offerings such as mikan(citrus unshiu) to the god named Inari(稲荷) and threw those mikan to children.

A large amount of mikan were consumed for this festival, so merchant Kinokuniya Bunzaemon(紀伊国屋文左衛門) from Kisyu(now Wakayama Prefecture) made big profits by carrying mikan for this festival to Edo during stormy weather.

Sanjo Kokaji Munechika(三条小鍛冶宗近) was a great swordsmith in Kyoto in the 10th century. In a yokyoku(the noh singing) named Kokaji(小鍛冶), he acknowledged a royal command to make the emperor a present of a sword and finished a celebrated sword with the help of Inari.
Originally Inari is the god of agriculture. It is said that blacksmiths came to worship Inari due to this story.

Even now, the descendants of Munechika make the production and sale of cuttery as Sanjyokokajimunechika Ltd.(有限会社三條小鍛冶宗近本店) in Nara Prefecture.

Now many cutlery companies and iron factories hold this festival. Some of them do it on the 8th day of the 11th month in the lunar calendar(corresponding to December in the solar calendar).

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