Sunday, January 20, 2013

Hatsukayasai in Hiraizumi

Hiraizumi(平泉) including Motsu-ji Temple(毛越寺) in Iwate Prefecture was registered as a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2011.
The principle image of Motsu-ji is Amida Nyorai (Amitabha Tathagatae), and the deity of Buddhist prayers called Matara-jin(摩多羅神) is enshrined in Jogyo-do Hall. The Matara-jin image is exhibited to the public once every 33 years. Local people have worshipped Matara-jin as the deity of crops since long ago.

A prayer for good health and agricultural fertility is offered to Matara-jin from January 14th to the 20th. On the last day, a festival called Hatsukayasai(二十日夜祭) is held.

Around 3.p.m., flowers are offered to Amida Nyorai and vegetables are offered to Matara-jin in the hall. Some rituals are held.


Around 7:30.p.m., people in their unlucky years (yakudoshi) head for the hall to offer vegetables. Men in their unlucky years strike torches together on the grounds of the temple. It's called Hitakinobori.

Ennen no Mai

From around 9.p.m. to midnight, the dance called Ennen no Mai(延年の舞) is performed in the hall. It has been designated a significant intangible folk cultural asset of the country.

photo by Iwate Tourism Association


  1. A very interesting post. I have not heard of this event. What is the significance of the 33 year time span between showing the Matara-jin image? Thank you!

    1. I couldn't find the reason for the 33 year time span in case of this temple. However, The number '33' is significant in Japanese Buddhism and Shintoism.

      Many Kannon(the Goddess of Mercy) images such as the standing one of Senju Kannon at Kiyomizu-dera Temple are unveiled once every 33 years because Kannon is believed to save the people by transforming itself into 33 different figures. The name of Sanjusangen-do Temple(三十三間堂, thirty-three ken (length) hall) in Kyoto is derived from this.

      In most sects of Japanese Buddhism, any kind of persons surely can be found innocent and acquitted, and cross over into the Buddhists' Pure Land 33 years after their death.

      In the Shinto religion, death is considered a source of impurity. The impure spirit after death is purified by performing religious service in 33 to 50 years, and merges with ancestral spirits.

  2. Thank you very much for your thorough explanation. Much appreciated!