Japanese Culture

Japanese Culture: Hanabi Taikai



Japanese Fireworks Festivals

It's Independence Day weekend in the United States, celebrating the ratification of the Declaration of Independence by the Second Continental Congress in 1776 and the cessation of the United States from the United Kingdom of Great Britain.

But summer fireworks isn't just an American tradition, Japan has long held summer festivals filled with games, food stands, and beautiful fireworks displays.

Japanese fireworks festivals (hanabi taikai) are held nearly every day, somewhere in the country, throughout the summer, with over 200 festivals being held in August, alone.

Originally used to ward off evil spirits, fireworks have a long history in Japan with the first fireworks festival taking place in 1733. Every year, Japanese fireworks festivals attract hundreds of thousands of visitors. The largest of which can attract up to 800,000 spectators at once. Men, women, and children alike come out for the festivals, dressed in Yukata and Jinbei. Vendors line the streets selling yakisoba, okonomiyaki, takoyaki, and kakigori. Other vendors set up stands featuring traditional games such as Kingyo-sukui (goldfish-scooping).

Japanese firework shells come in a variety of shapes and sizes. From the common starmines (small, spherical shells with come in a variety of patterns) to the world record holding Yonshakudama, weighing in at 930 lbs, measuring 48" in diameter, costing $1,500 USD, and producing an explosion almost half a mile long.

Some of the most famous hanabi taikai include: the Samida Rivers Fireworks, Tokyo Bay Fireworks, Nagaoka Fireworks, Osaka Tenjin Fireworks, Miyajima Fireworks, and the Chichibu Night Festival Fireworks.

Should you find yourself in Japan, this summer, be sure to give one of these, or any local fireworks festival a visit.


Japanese Mythology & Folklore: Yokai - Abura sumashi



Oil Presser

Abura sumashi

油すまし
あぶらすまし

TRANSLATION: oil presser
HABITAT: mountain passes; native to Kumamoto
DIET: unknown

APPEARANCE: The abura sumashi is a rare yokai native to Kumamoto. It looks like a squat humanoid with a large ugly head like a potato or a stone, wearing a straw-woven raincoat. It is extremely rare, only found deep in the mountains or along mountain passes in the southern parts of Japan – throughout the range where wild tea plants grow.

BEHAVIOR: Very little is known about the lifestyle and habits of this reclusive yokai. The most well-known abura sumashi lives in the Kusazumigoe Pass in Kumamoto, but only ever appears briefly to travelers. Occasionally, an old grandmother walking the pass with her grandchildren will say, “You know, a long time ago, an abura sumashi used to live in these parts.” And occasionally a mysterious voice will call out in reply, “I still do!” Sometimes the abura sumashi even appears to the travelers, materializing out of thin air.

ORIGIN: The name abura sumashi means “oil presser,” and comes from the act of pressing oil out of the seeds of tea plants which grow in Kumamoto. Though its origins are a mystery, it is commonly believed that abura sumashi are the ghosts of oil thieves who escaped into the woods. Oil was a very difficult and expensive commodity to make, requiring a lot of time and hard work to extract it from tea seeds, and so its theft was a very serious crime. Those thieves who went unpunished in life were reincarnated as yokai – a sort of divine punishment for their sins.


Japanese Culture: Tokugawa Shogunate



The Edo Period

The end of the Sengoku Jidai, saw the founding of the Tokugawa Shogunate and the beginning of the Edo Period (Tokugawa Period).

Tokugawa Ieyasu's victory at the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600 gave Tokugawa Ieyasu virtual control over all of Japan and paved his way for taking the title of Seii Taishogun.

Following his rise to power, Tokugawa Ieyasu rapidly abolished numerous Daimyo houses which had opposed him during the Sengoku Jidai and his ascension to the office of Seii Taishogun. Other houses, such as the Toyotomi, merely saw their status reduced. To his family and allies, Tokugawa Ieyasu redistributed the spoils of war.

In 1605 Tokugawa Ieyasu installed his son as Shogun and himself as retired Shogun, cementing his family's hold on the office and retaining true power for himself.

Still, Tokugawa Ieyasu had failed to obtain complete control over the western Daimyo. The Toyotomi, in particular, remained a significant threat to the rule of the Tokugawa Shogunate, leading Tokugaway Ieyasu to devote nearly a decade to the eradication of the Toyotomi. This came to a head in 1615 when Tokugawa forces marched on and destroyed the Toyotomi stronghold at Osaka.

The final defeat of the Toyotomi at Osaka allowed the Tokugawa total control over Japan and began a period of stability that would last 250 years. Some consider this final battle to be the true end of Sengoku Jidai.

With their enemies defeated and Japan united under their control, the Tokugawa Shogunate set to work re-organizing the Japanese social and political structure and implementing new social policies.

Under the Tokugawa Shogunate, the political system evolved into what historians have termed bakuhan, from the words bakufu (house of the Shogun) and han (house of a Daimyo). In the bakuhan the Shogun retained national authority while the Daimyo were granted regional and local authority. This created unity in the feudal structure and saw the creation of an increasingly large bureaucracy in order to manage the various centralized and decentralized authorities.

Rounding out the feudal hierarchy were the various classes of Daimyo. Closest to the Tokugawa were the shinpan, or "related houses". The shinpan consisted of twenty-three Daimyo residing on the borders of Tokugawa lands. These Daimyo were all directly related to Tokugawa Ieyasu. The shinpan held mostly honorary or advisory roles with regard to the bakufu.

Following the shinpan, the second class of the feudal hierarchy were the fudai, or "house Daimyo". These Daimyo were often rewarded with lands near the Tokugawa's territory in recognition of their faithful service to the Tokugawa. By the 18th century 145 fudai controlled much smaller han. Those of the fudai class staffed most of the major bakufu offices.

Finally, the third class of the feudal hierarchy was the tozama, or "outside vassals". This class consisted mostly of former opponents or new allies of the Tokugawa. The tozama were located mostly on the peripheries of the archipelago and collectively controlled nearly ten million koku of productive land. Being the least trusted of the Daimyo, the tozama were the most cautiously managed and were excluded from central government positions.

The Tokugawa Shogunate consolidated their control over the reunified Japan. In addition, they held unprecedented sway over the Emperor by assisting the Imperial Family in regaining their former glory, granting them land and rebuilding palaces in their name.

During the Edo Period, the Tokugawa Shogunate would enact various policies determining the roles and behavior of the Daimyo, they would build Japan's first European-style warships, the persecution of Christians, policies marking bakufu policies as law, and a foreign-relations policy known as Sakoku under which no foreigner could enter nor any Japanese leave Japan, under penalty of death.

The Edo Period, and the Tokugawa Shogunate, would last until 1868 when the final Shogun, Tokugawa Yoshinobu, would resign, following the Fall of Edo during the Meiji Revolution, restoring central authority to the Emperor and beginning the Meiji Period.


Japanese Culture: Sengoku Jidai



The Sengoku Period

The Sengoku Jidai (Sengoku Period) was a long and bloody period in Japanese history consisting of warring clans, vying for political power and influence over Japan's social structure.

This period would change the course of Japanese history, forever. It was in this time that legendary leaders such as Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu made their names and wrought their legacies, legacies that are known throughout Japan, today.

Though the Onin War of 1467 is usually regarded as the beginning of the Sengoku Jidai, there is some debate as to the period's end. Even so, many scholars regard the establishment of the Tokugawa Shogunate, and the beginning of the Edo Period, in 1603 as the end of the Sengoku Jidai.

During the Sengoku Jidai, even though the Emperor remained the official ruler of Japan, the Emperor deferred primarily to the Shogun. Prior to the beginning of the period, the Shogunate's power had begun to wane and political power gradually shifted away from a centralized government, falling instead to the Daimyo (local lords) who would soon make war over control of the Shogunate and all of Japan.

After nearly a century and a half of war and conflict, Japan was nearly unified by Oda Nobunaga. In 1582, with victory in sight, Oda Nobunaga was betrayed by one of his own Generals, Akechi Mitsuhide. Seeing this betrayal, Toyotomi Hediyoshi, who had risen through the ranks from ashigaru (foot soldiers) to become one of Oda Nobunaga's most trusted Generals, seized this opportunity to declare himself Oda Nobunaga's successor.

Toyotomi Hideyoshi eventually consolidated his control over the Daimyo and, despite being ineligible for the title of Seii Taishogun due to this common birth, ruled as Kampaku (a regent to the Emperor) for a short period. During this time Toyotomi Hideyoshi would attempt two invasions of Korea. The first, spanning from 1592 - 1593, was only partially successful. The second attempt, however, met with much greater success, spanning from 1594 until Toyotomi Hideyoshi ordered a retreat, on his deathbed, in 1598.

In 1598 Toyotomi Hideyoshi died without a capable successor. And Japan was, once again, thrown into political turmoil.

On his deathbed, Toyotomi Hideyoshi appointed five of the nation's most power lords - Tokugawa Ieyasu, Maeda Toshiie, Ukita Hideie, Uesugi Kagekatsu, and Mori Terumoto - to the Council of Five Regents who were to govern and watch over Japan until Toyotomi Hideyoshi's infant son, Hideyori, came of age. This culminated in an uneasy peace which lasted until the the death of Maeda Toshiie in 1599.

After Maeda Toshiie's death, a number of high-ranking figures, notably Ishida Mitsunari, accused Tokugawa Ieyasu of disloyalty to the Toyotomi regime. This precipitated a crisis which would lead to the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, during which Tokugawa Ieyasu and his allies would defeat the anti-Tokugawa forces and bring Japan under Tokugawa Ieyasu's control, ending the reign of the Toyotomi. The last remnants of the Toyotomi regime would be destroyed in 1615 during the Siege of Osaka.

In 1603 Tokugawa Ieyasu would swear his loyalty to the Emperor and be granted the title of Seii Taishogun. Tokugawa Ieyasu would abdicate this position to his son, Tokugaway Hidetada, in 1605 (while retaining real control and power for himself) in order to solidify and emphasize his family's hold over the position. Thus Tokugawa Ieyasu would create Japan's last Shogunate and mark the beginning of the Edo Period and, soon, Sakoku and the end of Sengoku Jidai.


Japanese Mythology & Folklore: Yamabushi



Mountain Hermits

Yamabushi (山伏) (one who lies in the mountains) are Japanese mountain ascetic hermits with a long tradition, endowed with supernatural powers in traditional Japanese mysticism. They follow the Shugendō doctrine, an integration of mainly esoteric Buddhism of the Shingon sect, with Tendai Buddhist, Taoism, and Shinto elements. For the most part solitary, they did form loose confederations, and associations with certain temples, and also participated in battles and skirmishes alongside samurai and sōhei warrior monks on occasion. Their origins can be traced back to the solitary Yama-bito and some hijiri (聖) of the eighth and ninth centuries. There has also been cross-teaching with samurai weaponry and Yamabushi's spiritual approach to life and fighting.

In modern use, the term ubasoku-yamabushi refers to laymen practitioners of shugendō. The religion places a heavy emphasis on asceticism and feats of endurance, and white and saffron-robed yamabushi toting a horagaiconch-shell trumpet are still a common sight near the shugendō holy site of Dewa Sanzan and in the sacred mountains of Kumano and Omine.

History
Yamabushi began as yamahoshi, isolated clusters (or individuals) of mountain hermits, ascetics, and "holy men", who followed the path of shugendō, a search for spiritual, mystical, or supernatural powers gained through asceticism. This path may or may not have had a founder, as the myths surrounding En no Gyōja are numerous and complex; he is quite similar to a Japanese Merlin in this way. Men who followed this path came to be known by a variety of names, including kenja, kenza, and shugenja. These mountain mystics came to be renowned for their magical abilities and occult knowledge, and were sought out as healers or mediums, although Shinto shrines had traditionally reserved this role exclusively for maidens known as Miko.

Most of these ascetics, in addition to their devotion to shugendō, studied the teachings of the Tendai sect of Buddhism, or the Shingon sect, established by Kōbō Daishi in the 8th century. Shingon Buddhism was one of the primary sects of mikkyō (密教) or Esoteric Buddhism, according to which enlightenment is found through isolation, and the study and contemplation of oneself, as well as nature, and esoteric images called mandala. Both the Shingon sect and the Tendai viewed mountains as the ideal place for this sort of isolation and contemplation of nature.

In their mountain retreats, these monks studied not only nature and religious/spiritual texts and images, but also a variety of martial arts. Whether they felt they had to defend themselves from bandits, other monks, or samurai armies is questionable, but the idea of studying martial arts as a means to improve oneself mentally and spiritually, not just physically, has always been central to Japanese culture, beyond the specific tenets of one religious sect or another. Thus, like the sōhei, the yamabushi became warriors as well as monks.

As their reputation for mystical insight and knowledge grew, and their organization grew tighter, many of the masters of the ascetic disciplines began to be appointed to high spiritual positions in the court hierarchy. Monks and temples began to gain political influence. By the Nanboku-chō Period, in the 13th and 14th centuries, the yamabushi had formed organized cohorts called konsha, and these konsha, along with sōhei and other monks began to take direction from the central temples of their sects. They assistedEmperor Go-Daigo in his attempts to overthrow the Kamakura shogunate, and proved their warrior skills to be up to the challenge of fighting professional samurai armies.

Several centuries later, in the Sengoku Period, yamabushi could be found among the advisers and armies of nearly every major contender for dominion over Japan. Some, led by Takeda Shingen, aided Oda Nobunaga against Uesugi Kenshin in 1568, while others, including the abbot Sessai Choro, advised Tokugawa Ieyasu. Many fought alongside their fellow monks, the Ikkō-ikki, against Nobunaga, who eventually crushed them and put an end to the time of the warrior monks.

Yamabushi also served as sendatsu, or spiritual mountain guides, since medieval times for pilgrims along the Kumano Kodo to the Kumano Sanzan, including retired emperors and aristocrats.


Japanese Mythology & Folklore: Kagura



God Entertainment

Kagura (神楽, かぐら, "god-entertainment") is a Japanese word referring to a specific type of Shinto theatrical dance—with roots arguably predating those of Noh. Once strictly a ceremonial art derived from kami'gakari (神懸, かみがかり, "oracular divination") and chinkon (鎮魂, ちんこん, "spirit pacification"), Kagura has evolved in many directions over the span of a millennium. Today it is very much a living tradition, with rituals tied to the rhythms of the agricultural calendar, as well as vibrant Kabuki-esque theatre, thriving primarily in parts of Shimane prefecture, and urban centers such as Hiroshima.

History
The epics Kojiki and Nihonshoki describe a folklore origin for the dances. In these texts, there is a famous legendary tale about the sun goddess Amaterasu, who retreated into a cave, bringing darkness and cold to the world. Ame-no-Uzume, kami/goddess of the dawn and of revelry, led the other gods in a wild dance, and persuaded Amaterasu to emerge to see what the ruckus was all about. Kagura is one of a number of rituals and arts said to derive from this event.

Originally called kamukura or kamikura (神座), kagura began as sacred dances performed at the Imperial court by shrine maidens (miko) who were supposedly descendants of Ame-no-Uzume. Over time, however, thesemikagura (御神楽), performed within the sacred and private precincts of the Imperial courts, inspired popular ritual dances, called satokagura (里神楽), which, being popular forms, practiced in villages all around the country, were adapted into various other folk traditions and developed into a number of different forms. Among these are miko kagura, shishi[disambiguation needed] kagura, and Ise-style and Izumo-style kagura dances. Many more variations have developed over the centuries, including some which are fairly new, and most of which have become highly secularized folk traditions.

Kagura, in particular those forms that involve storytelling or reenactment of fables, is also one of the primary influences on the Noh theatre.

Imperial Kagura
The formal ritual dances (mikagura) were performed in a number of sacred places and on a number of special occasions. At the Imperial Sanctuary, where the Sacred Mirror was kept, they were performed as part of gagakucourt music. Mikagura were also performed at the Imperial harvest festival and at major shrines such as Ise, Kamo, and Iwashimizu Hachiman-gū. Since around the year 1000, these events have taken place every year.

According to the ritual department of the Imperial Household Agency, kagura still take place every December in the Imperial Sanctuary and at the Imperial harvest festival ceremonies.

Folk Kagura
Satokagura, or "normal kagura", is a wide umbrella term containing a great diversity of folk dances derived from mikagura, and incorporated with other folk traditions. For the sake of brevity, a selection of traditions from theKantō region will be used as examples.

Miko kagura – dances performed by shrine maidens (miko) originally derived from ritual dances in which the miko channeled the kami, speaking, singing, and dancing as the god. Though these originally had a very loose form, akin to similar god-possession dances and rituals in other world cultures, they have developed, like many other Japanese arts, into highly regular set forms. Today, they are performed largely in worship to kami atShinto shrines, or as part of a ritual martial arts demonstration at Buddhist temples. These dances are often performed with ritual props, such as bells, bamboo canes, sprigs of sakaki, or paper streamers.
Izumo-ryū kagura – Dances based on those performed at Izumo Shrine serve a number of purposes, including ritual purification, celebration of auspicious days, and the reenactment of folktales. Originally quite popular in the Chūgoku region, near Izumo, these dances have spread across the country, and have developed over the centuries, becoming more secular folk entertainment and less formal religious ritual.
Ise-ryū kagura – A form of dances derived from those performed alongside yudate (boiling water) rituals at the outer shrines of Ise Shrine. Largely associated with Hanamatsuri (April 8), the miko or other group leaders immerse certain objects in boiling water as part of a purification ritual. As with other forms of kagura, this has become secularized and popularized as it transformed into a folk practice.
Shishi kagura – A form of lion dance, in which a group of dancers take on the role of the shishi lion and parade around the town. The lion mask and costume is seen as, in some ways, embodying the spirit of the lion, and this is a form of folk worship and ritual, as other forms of lion dances are in Japan and elsewhere...
Daikagura – A form of dance deriving from rituals performed by traveling priests from Atsuta and Ise Shrines, who would travel to villages, crossroads, and other locations to help the locals by driving away evil spirits. Acrobatic feats and lion dances played a major role in these rituals.
Around the time of the beginning of the Tokugawa shogunate (1603-1868), performances derived from this emerged in Edo as a major form of entertainment. In connection with the celebrations surrounding the beginning of the shogunate, lion dances, acrobatics, juggling, and a great variety of other entertainments were performed on stages across the city, all nominally under the auspices of "daikagura". Over the course of the period, these came to be more closely associated with rakugo storytelling and other forms of populair entertainment, and still today, daikagura continues to be performed and include many elements of street entertainment.


Japanese Mythology & Folklore: Shuten-dōji



The Oni King

Shuten-dōji (酒呑童子, also sometimes called 酒顛童子, 酒天童子, or 朱点童子) is a mythical oni leader who lived in Mt. Ooe (大江山) of Tamba Province or Mt. Ooe (大枝) on the boundary between Kyoto and Tamba in Japan. He was based in a palace somewhat like a Ryūgū-jō on Mt. Ooe, and he had many oni subordinates.

Various birth legends
Shuten-doji, according to one legend, was born at Ganbara, Echigo.[citation needed] However, there is also the idea that from the base of Mt. Ibuki, where in literature like the Nihon Shoki, in the legend of the defeat of the giant snake Yamata no Orochi to Susanoo in a battle, it fled from Izumo to Ōmi, had a child with a wealthy person’s daughter, with that child was Shuten-doji. Both father and son had a matchless thirst for sake, which is often cited as support.

Echigo birth legend
He, who was born in Echigo in the Heian era (8th century) when Dengyō Daishi and Kōbō-Daishi were active, became a page of the Kokojou-ji (国上寺) (in Tsubame, Niigata) (at the base of Mt. Kugami, there is a Chigo-dou where he is said to have passed through).

While he was 12 years of age, he was a “pretty boy,” and refused all of the females who loved him, and all of the females who approached him died from being so love-stricken. When he burned the love letters he received from all the females, due to one of the females who was not able to acquire her love, when the love letters burned, the smoke that came out enveloped him, turning him into an oni. Because of this, it was said that he, who became an oni, after moving from mountain to mountain centered on Honshu, eventually settled on Mt. Ooe.

One story is that he was the son of a blacksmith in Echigo, that he was in his mother’s womb for 16 months, and that he had teeth and hair when he was born, was immediately able to walk, was able to talk on the level of a 5-6 year old, had the wisdom and physical strength of a 16 year old, and had a rough temperament, and due to this unusually ready wit, was shunned as an “oni child.” According to Zentaiheiki, afterwards, when he was 6 years of age, he was abandoned by his mother, wandered from place to place, and then walked the path towards being an oni. There is also a legend that since he was scorned as an oni child, he was put into custody of a temple, but the chief priest of that temple was a user of unorthodox practices, and the child became an oni through learning those unorthodox practices, that he exhausted the limits of evil.

In the town of Wanou (presently, Niigata, Niigata), it is said that when a pregnant woman eats a fish called “tochi,” that child will become a robber if it is a boy, and a prostitute if it is a girl. It is also said that a woman who ate the fish, gave birth to a child after it stayed 16 months in her womb, and that child was Shuten-doji. In Wanou, there are place names like the Doji estate and the Doji field.

Mt. Ibuki birth legend
He, who was born from the large snake Yamata no Orochi and a human girl, was a page at Mount Hiei from an early age, and underwent training, but he drank sake which was forbidden by Buddhism, and in face was a big drinker, and was therefore hated by everyone. One day, after a religious festival where he dressed in an oni costume, he was about to take off the costume, but he wasn’t able to since it was stuck to his face, and reluctantly went into some mountain recesses where he started his life as an oni. He then met Ibaraki-dōji, and together aimed for Kyoto.

Mt. Ooe legend
From the Kamakura era to the Heian era, he was an “oni” who lawlessly ran amok in the capital, and he was based in Mt. Ooe in the Tamba Province, or the Ooe in Nishikyō-ku, Kyoto, also known as Oi no Saka (老ノ坂) (within the Rakusai district of Kyoto) as well as the neighboring Shinochououji, Kameoka. For the legend of the Mt. Ooe in Tamba province, there is a theory that it was a misrepresentation of the bandits within Ooe who harassed passing travelers.

Yamato province birth legend
He was a page for the Byakugō-ji in the Yamato province (presently, Nara Province), but found a corpse at a nearby mountain, and due to curiosity, brought that meat back to the temple, and made his priest teacher eat it without telling him that it was human meat. Afterwards, the page frequently brought back meat, not only from the flesh of corpses, but also by murdering live humans and returning with their flesh. The priest, who thought that it was suspicious, followed after the page, discovered the truth, harshly criticized the page, and abandoned him in a mountain. The page later became Shuten-doji, and it has been said that the place where he was abandoned was thus called “chigo-saka” (page-hill).

According to another theory, he was a child of the chief priest of Byakugō-ji, but as he matured, he grew fangs and a horn, and later became a child as rough as a beast. The priest was embarrassed by this child, so the child was abandoned, but the child later came to Mt. Ooe, and became Shuten-doji.

Subordinates
With Ibaraki-doji as his deputy, there are the great four, Kuma-doji, Torakuma-doji, Hoshikuma-doji, and Kanaguma-doji, who were four oni, and there is also one by the name of Doji in the legends.

Relation to Ibaraki-doji
Shuten-doji rampaged together in Kyoto along with Ibaraki-doji, but there are actually several theories about their relation.[citation needed] One of those theories is that Ibaraki-doji was not a male oni, but a female oni, and that Ibaraki-doji was a lover of his son, or Shuten-doji himself. Therefore, it has been said that Shuten-doji and Ibaraki-doji knew of each other’s existence, and aimed for the capital together.

As one of the three great evil yokai

It has been often said that Shuten-doji was the strongest oni of Japan, who, along with the white-faced golden-furred nine-tailed fox Tamamo-no-mae, and Emperor Sutoku who became a Daitengu as a result of resentment, are called one of the “three great evil yokai.”

Shuten-doji, who came to Kyoto, had many subordinates with Ibaraki-doji as his first, and based on Mt. Ooe, appeared in Kyoto from time to time, kidnapped the daughters of noble families, cut them with swords, and ate them raw. As it was quick wicked, as a result of a command from the Mikado, Minamoto no Yorimitsu from Settsugenji and Watanabe no Tsuna from Sagagenji, who were the leaders of the Four Guardian Kings, formed a punitive squad, so that when Shuten-doji was satisfied with the blood of the daughters of noble families and human meat, while at the height of a drinking bout, Yorimitsu made Shuten-doji drink the “divine oni-poison sake (神便鬼毒酒) he received along with a helmet from a god, that Shuten-doji was unable to move his body, and his head was cut off while asleep. However, after the head was cut off, it has been said that it still tried to bite at Yorimitsu’s helmet.

Yorimitsu and the others returned with the head back to the capital, but at Oi no Saka (老ノ坂), they were warned by a roadsize image of Jizo, “don’t bring something unclean into the capital,” and as the head was not able to move anymore, they all buried the head right there. Another theory is that when Doji was dying, regretting his crimes until then, desired to help various people who had illnesses in their head, that he was deified as a great wisdom god (daimyoujin). As this is the Kubitsuka Daimyoujin of the Oi no Saka ridge, according to legends, it would perform miracles for illnesses in the head. It has also been said that he was buried in Mt. Ooe (in the town of Ooe, Kasa, Kyoto), which is the origin of the Onidake-inari-san jinja (鬼岳稲荷山神社).

Additionally, in the Nariaiji temple in Kyoto Prefecture, it has been said that the bottle and cup for the divine oni-poison sake are within its possession.

The name Shuten-doji first appears in the important cultural property, the “Ooe-yama Shuten-doji Emaki” (大江山酒天童子絵巻) (within Itsuo Art Museum), but its contents are quite different from the aforementioned image of Shuten-doji. First, it was written as 酒天童子, and was depicted as a native influential person or an oni god. Additionally, it was stated that for Doji, “Mt. Hiei was their territory of successive generations, but they were chased away by Dengyō Daishi, and came to Mt. Ooe.” When his movement was sealed by sake, he vehemently spoke ill towards Yorimitsu who came for a sneak attack, saying, “there is no wrongdoing for oni.”

Modern fiction
In the American television series called The Yokai King, starring by Shin Koyamada from The Last Samurai, one of the characters appears to be Shuten-doji.


Japanese Mythology & Folklore: Shōjō



Drunk Orangutan

A shōjō (猩々 or 猩猩 heavy drinker or orangutan) is a kind of Japanese sea spirit with red face and hair and a fondness for alcohol. The legend is the subject of a Noh play of the same name. There is a Noh mask for this character, as well as a type of Kabuki stage makeup, that bear the name. The Chinese characters are also a Japanese (and Chinese) word for orangutan, and can also be used in Japanese to refer to someone who is particularly fond of alcohol.

Chinese origins
Mythical creatures named "shēng shēng" (狌狌) or "xīng xīng" (猩猩) are mentioned in three passages of the Shan Hai Jing ("The Classic of Mountains and Seas"). Birrell, who translates the creature's name as "live-lively", thus translates the passages:

There is an animal on the mountain which looks like a long-tailed ape, but it has white ears. It crouches as it moves along and it runs like a human. Its name is the live-lively. If you eat it, you'll be a good runner.

—Book One--The Classic of the Southern Mountains--Chapter 1 (p. 3)
Drift Forest is 300 leagues square. It lies east of the land of the live-lively apes. The live-lively apes know the names of humans. These animals are like hogs, but they have a human face.

—Book Ten--The Classic of Regions Within the Seas: The South (p. 135)
There is a green animal with a human face. Its name is live-lively.

—Book Eighteen--The Classic of Regions Within the Seas (p. 192)
The Chinese character Birrell translates as "green" (青, qīng) is also used to refer to colors that in English would be considered "blue," (see Distinguishing blue from green in language) and that illustrator Sun Xiao-qin (孫暁琴, Sūn Xiǎo-qín), in Illustrated Classics: Classic of Mountains and Seas (经典图读山海经, Jīng Diǎn Tú Dú Shān Hǎi Jīng) chose to portray the xīng xīng from this same passage as having blue fur.

Birrell also includes the following note on the creature:

Live-lively (hsing-hsing): A type of ape. The translation of its name reflects the phonetic for ‘live’ (sheng) in the double graph. It is sometimes translated as the orangutan. [Hao Yi-hsing (郝懿行)] notes that its lips taste delicious. He also cites a text of the fourth century AD that gives evidence of their mental powers and their knowledge of human names: ‘In the Yunnan region, the live-lively animals live in mountain valleys. When they see wine and sandals left out, they know exactly who set this trap for them, and, what is more, they know the name of that person's ancestor. They call the name of the person who set the trap and curse them: “Vile rotter! You hoped to trap me!”’

—(p. 236)

In Cryptozoology
In Cryptozoology, the shojo is often referred to as xing-xing and is believed to be a mainland orangutan. Bernard Heuvelmans lists this as an entry in his Annotated Checklist of Apparently Unknown Animals With Which Cryptozoology is Concerned, In CRYPTOZOOLOGY, Vol. 5, 1986,on page 16

Nature, folklore, and popular culture
There is a tale involving the shōjō and white sake. There was a gravely sick man whose dying wish was to drink sake. His son searched for it near Mount Fuji and came across the red shōjō, who were having a drinking party on the beach. The shōjō gave him some sake after listening to his plea. Since the sake revived the dying father, the son went back to the spirit to get more sake each day for five days. A greedy neighbor who also wanted the sake became sick after drinking it. He forced the son to take him to the shōjō to get the good sake. The shōjō explained that as his heart wasn't pure, the sacred sake would not have life-restoring benefits, but instead had poisoned the neighbor. The neighbor repented, and the shōjō gave him some medicine to cure him. The father and the neighbor brewed white sake together.

Several plants and animals have shōjō in their names for their bright, reddish-orange color. Examples include several Japanese maple trees, one of them named shōjō-no-mai or "dancing red-faced monkey" and another named shōjō nomura or "beautiful red-faced monkey." Certain bright reddish-orange dragonflies are named shōjō tonbo (猩猩蜻蛉), meaning "red-faced dragonfly." Other names with shōjō refer to real or fancied connections to sake, like the fly shōjō bae (猩猩蠅) that tends to swarm around open saké.

The Kyōgen-influenced Noh play shōjō or shōjō midare features a shōjō buying sake, getting drunk and dancing ecstatically, then rewarding the sake seller by making his sake vat perpetually refill itself. The shōjō from the play have been made into wooden dolls (nara ningyō), they are one of the "most common" wooden dolls derived from Noh plays. Shōjō dolls are used to ward against smallpox.

In Hayao Miyazaki's animated film Princess Mononoke, talking, ape-like creatures struggling to protect the forest from human destruction by planting trees are identified as shōjō.

Shōjō appeared in a 2005 Japanese film The Great Yokai War.

The Japanese artist Kawanabe Kyōsai, who was also known for his heavy drinking and eccentric behavior, humorously referred to himself as a shōjō.

The March 30, 2012, episode of the television series Supernatural, "Party on, Garth," featured a shōjō as the monster of the week. Although, this shōjō appeared to have features more associated with the onryō.


Japanese Mythology & Folklore: Tamamo-no-Mae



Woman becomes Killing Stone!

Tamamo-no-Mae (玉藻前, 玉藻の前, also 玉藻御前) is a legendary figure in Japanese mythology. In the Otogizōshi, a collection of Japanese prose written in the Muromachi period, Tamamo-no-Mae was a courtesan under the Japanese Emperor Konoe (who reigned from 1142 through 1155). She was said to be the most beautiful and intelligent woman in Japan. Tamamo-no-Mae's body mysteriously always smelled wonderful, and her clothes never became wrinkled or dirty. Tamamo-no-Mae was not only beautiful, but she was infinitely knowledgeable in all subjects. Although she appeared to be only twenty years old, there was no question that she could not answer. She answered every question posed to her, whether about music, religion or astronomy. Because of her beauty and intelligence, everyone in the Imperial Court adored her, and Emperor Konoe fell deeply in love with her.

After some time had passed, with Konoe all the while lavishing all his affection on the beautiful Tamamo-no-Mae, the Emperor suddenly and mysteriously fell ill. He went to many priests and fortune-tellers for answers, but they had none to offer. Finally, an astrologer, Abe no Yasuchika, told the Emperor that Tamamo-no-Mae was the cause of his illness. The astrologer explained that the beautiful young woman was in fact a kind or evil (depending on the story variant being told) nine-tailed fox (kitsune: good fox spirit; nogitsune: malicious fox spirit) working for an evil daimyo, who was making the Emperor ill in a devious plot to take the throne. Following this, Tamamo-no-Mae disappeared from the court.

The Emperor ordered Kazusa-no-suke and Miura-no-suke, the most powerful warriors of the day, to hunt and kill the fox. After eluding the hunters for some time, the fox appeared to Miura-no-suke in a dream. Once again in the form of the beautiful Tamamo-no-Mae, the fox prophesied that Miura-no-suke would kill it the next day, and begged for its life. Miura-no-suke refused.

Early the next day, the hunters found the fox on the Plain of Nasu, and Miura-no-suke shot and killed the magical creature with an arrow. The body of the fox became the Sessho-seki (殺生石), or Killing Stone, which kills anyone that comes in contact with it. Tamamo-no-Mae's spirit became Hoji and haunted the stone.

Hoji is said to have haunted this stone in Nasu until a Buddhist priest called Genno stopped for a rest near the stone and was threatened by Hoji. Genno performed certain spiritual rituals, and begged the spirit to consider her spiritual salvation, until finally Hoji relented and swore to never haunt the stone again.

Influences in later times[edit]
In Matsuo Bashō's famous book The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Bashō tells of visiting the stone in Nasu.

Tamamo-no-Mae's legend forms the basis of both the noh drama Sessho-seki ("The Killing Stone") and the kabuki play Tamamo-no-Mae (or The Beautiful Fox Witch).

There is a part of the storyline of the video game Ōkami that entails a meeting with Rao, a beautiful and intelligent priestess and demon hunter. However, it is later revealed that the real Rao was killed by a nine-tailed fox spirit, and the fox took the image of her, her corpse is below the shrine.

In the video game Fate/Extra the selectable Caster class character eventually reveals herself as Tamamo-no-Mae.

Tamamo-no-Mae is the main antagonist of the video game Musou Orochi 2 Ultimate. She is portrayed as a mystic who possesses a sacred mirror capable of sealing people who stare into it. Her famous legend as a disguise of the nine-tailed fox is also alluded as her own true form upon being revealed by the mirror.

The character Tamamo from the Japanese Adult game "Monmusu Quest" or also known as "Monster Girl Quest" to westerners when revealed in part 3 to be sealed away along with the ancient monster ancestors was called by her full name Tamamo no Mae. She smells nice and has a fluffy tail. There is also a song created soley due to the fluffiness of her tail.


Japanese Mythology & Folklore: Mount Penglai



Mount Hōrai in Japanese

Penglai is a legendary land of Chinese mythology. It is known in Japanese mythology as Hōrai.

Location
According to the Classic of Mountains and Seas, the mountain is said to be on an island in the eastern end of Bohai Sea, along with four other islands where the immortals lived, called Fāngzhàng (方丈), Yíngzhōu (瀛州), Dàiyú (岱輿), and Yuánjiāo (員嬌).

Various theories have been offered over the years as to the "real" location of these places, including Japan, Jeju Island south of the Korean peninsula, and Taiwan. A Penglai City now exists in Shandong, but its claimed connection is as the scene of departures of those leaving for the island rather than the island itself.

In Chinese mythology
In Chinese mythology, the mountain is often said to be the base for the Eight Immortals, or at least where they travel to have a banquet, as well as the magician Anqi Sheng. Supposedly, everything on the mountain seems white, while its palaces are made from gold and platinum, and jewelry grows on trees.

There is no pain and no winter; there are rice bowls and wine glasses that never become empty no matter how much people eat or drink from them; and there are magical fruits growing in Penglai that can heal any disease, grant eternal youth, and even raise the dead.

Historically, Qin Shi Huang, in search of the elixir of life, made several attempts to find the island where the mountain is located, to no avail. Legends tell that Xu Fu, one servant sent to find the island, found Japan instead.

In Japanese mythology
The presentation of Mt. Hōrai in Lafcadio Hearn's Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things, is somewhat different from the earlier idyllic Chinese myth. This version, which does not truly represent the Japanese views of Horai in the Meiji and preceding Tokugawa periods, rejects much of the fantastic and magical properties of Hōrai. In this version of the myth, Hōrai is not free from sorrow or death, and the winters are bitterly cold. Hearn's conception of Hōrai holds that there are no magical fruits that cure disease, grant eternal youth or raise the dead, and no rice bowls or wine glasses that never become empty.

Hearn's incarnation of the myth of Hōrai focuses more on the atmosphere of the place, which is said to be made up not of air but of "quintillions of quintillions" of souls. Breathing in these souls is said to grant one all of the perceptions and knowledge of these ancient souls. The Japanese version also holds that the people of Hōrai are small fairies, and they have no knowledge of great evil, and so their hearts never grow old.

In the Kwaidan, there is some indication that the Japanese hold such a place to be merely a fantasy. It is pointed out that "Hōrai is also called Shinkiro, which signifies Mirage—the Vision of the Intangible".

Yet uses of Mount Hōrai in Japanese literature and art of the Tokugawa period (1615–1868) reveal a very different view than Hearn's Victorian-influenced interpretation.