Seeing the light of day again

So, needless to say (why do people say that but then say it anyway?), it continues to be an unbelievably bonkers state of affairs in the world. Obviously, travel has been seriously curtailed and, as a result, I wasn’t able to do my pilgrimage home to Vancouver this summer. Not being able to was especially difficult this year but that may or may not be a post for another time.

In order to have a variety of things to do while remaining home, I asked to have all my negatives be dragged up from storage at my folks’ place and sent my way. I have been scanning up a storm many of the images that have not seen the light of day in over 30 years in some cases. Many of those don’t have much merit in the artistic sense, but certainly do from a personal one, so that’s been an interesting stumble down memory lane.

In 2005, I was living in Osaka and have rediscovered images from that time of a festival I attended that takes place at Sumiyoshi Taisha, or Sumiyoshi Grand Shrine: The Otaue (Oh-ta-oo-eh) Rice Planting Festival.

This festival is called Otaue Shinji in Japanese and is one of the most famous festivals in the Kansai region of Japan. It takes place every June 14th and is said to have been going since the year 211.  Yes, more than 1,800 years!  That makes it from the Yayoi Period (弥生), which dates from around 300 BC to 250 AD, for those keeping track.  One of the reasons why this particular festival is so famous is its adherence to traditional procedures and Shinto rituals in planting the rice.

The paddies are tilled by decorated oxen and a procession of traditionally garbed participants takes place in a ritual of purification of the rice seedlings performed by the Shinto priests.  For those who are not familiar, while Buddhism is prominent in Japan, it was brought from outside the country.  Shintoism is not only quite different in practice, but has its origins within Japan.

Dancing and music played on traditional instruments like taiko drums and shamisen (stringed instrument) accompany the planting of the seedlings .  It is believed that the spirits that live inside the seedlings are energized by the music and dancing and will then provide a bountiful harvest in the autumn.  (A cornerstone of Shinto belief is that everything, animate or inanimate has a spirit.)

While this year’s festival was cancelled, at least for the public, due to Covid-19, if you have the opportunity to see it in the future, I recommend seeing this slice of the past.  Sumiyoshi Taisha is easily reached from Namba station by taking the Nankai main line and then alighting at Sumiyoshi Taisha station.


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