Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Sone Tenmangu Fall Festival


The Sone Tenmangu Fall Festival is a unique and elaborate festival that is held near Himeji (Hyogo Prefecture) every year on the 13th and 14th of October.
 This festival is held at the same time as the Nada Kenka festival, which is only three stations away. Nada Kenka is a probably the most famous festival in Hyogo; it is the one where mutiple teams bash portable shrines together. This interesting shadow gets overshadowed by the more famous neighbor. However Sone has many layers of interesting elements at this amazing festival.

Yatai floats 布団屋台
Yatai (or futon yatai) are a type of parade float that originated with this shrine around the time of the Russo-Japanese War (1905). They are carried by teams of people on a wooden scaffold. The float itself is made of ornate woodwork, cushions, large tassels, and a compartment for children banging bells and drums. The yatai now have an elaborate system of battery powered LED lights.
Yatai are similar to the futon daiko, which are a more popular type of parade float; the difference is that the yatai have an ornate roof rather than the futon daiko's open compartment.
The night of the 13th the yatai are paraded around the local neighborhoods.
The festival has 11 of these yatai, each with slightly different designs, but they all have similar 3-layer padded roofs with upturned corners.
As the yatai are paraded about there memers on the float who act as a type of cheerleader, waving paper flails.
On the second night the yatai gather in the shrine courtyard.
Children cheering the team as the yatai is lifted into the air.
Two yatai with similar fish ornaments.
Note the five-leaf plum emblem indicative of Tenmangu shrines.
The drummers wear unusually shaped hats.
The yatai tilts as it is being set down.
In this photo mean are perched atop the yatai preparing the lights.
The yatai have straps for the cheerleader to hold onto.
This yatai is designed to look like Mt. Fuji.
Note the different designs on the surcoats of the team members.
This girl with the braided hair strikes an imposing figure atop this yatai.
Kids cheering on the yatai team.
The boys on the yatai wear fundoshi loinclothes.
The yatai is being hoisted into the air.
I like how the boys on top of the yatai look more enthusiastic than the men carrying it.
A few yatai parade around the courtyard while the other teams wait.
Note the bamboo poles here that are similar to those from the Nada festival.
Plastic sheets to protect that yatai from the rain.
Note the elaborate wood carvings in the yatai.
The yatai being prepared.
Nice lighting for this photo.
Lights reflecting ff the metal work of the yatai.
Figures casting a silhouette in front of the yatai lights.
The Bamboo Splitting Ritual- Takewari 竹割
The Sone Tenmangu Shrine has a ritual in which teams of mean prepare long bamboo pole by topping them with paper ornaments and tying support ropes to the top.
The teams gather with their bamboo poles in front of the shrine chanting and singing.
The poles are held upright. When a team's turn comes they take their pole into the area between the shrine and gate and pound the pole into the ground trying to make the bamboo split into vertical strips.
Sometimes, a particularly daring team will have a member who climbs to the top of the pole before the bamboo is split.
If the bamboo is too difficult to split then someone from the team with drive wedge into the side of the bamboo to start a split.
Once the bamboo splits and falls over, the bundle of bamboo strips is smashed further against the ground. When they are finished splitting the bamboo, it is carried out of the shrine grounds by the sacred child (hitotsumono) for that team.
A daredevil climbing the bamboo.

The bamboo spliitting teams sing raucous songs.
Climbing the bamboo.
A party ball on this bamboo pole congratulates organizers with a banner and confetti.
Banners, poles and lanterns.
The split bamboo being carried away after the horizontal secondary smashing.
Lanterns being carried out behind the split bamboo and the sacred child.
The climber checks the ropes and rallies the crowd.
Stone lanterns on the path to the shrine.
The Sacred Child - Hitotsumono 一つ物
The different neighborhoods have their own representative sacred child, or "hitotsumono."
The sacred child is dressed in an elaborate costume that has a long trailing cape and a floral cape with long quail feathers. The hitostsumono is carried on the shoulders of young men, then when the bamboo is split, the child is carried out to a waiting horse to ride back to their home neighborhood.
This is all prepared as a way to keep the sacred child's feet from touching the ground.

Parents getting their kid ready.
The team members who carry the hitotsumono wear unusual head gear that looks like their are performing a nativity scene.
Note the huge himenawa (straw rope) hanging over the shrine entrance.
The hitotsumono sits on the shoulders of young men.
The hitotsumono rides a horse back to the team's neighborhood.
The hitotsumono with a komainu statue in the background.
A team of lantern bearers (mostly elementary school kids).
Carving on a yatai.
Lanterns and bamboo poles lining the street.
The second day has a ceremony in which a horseback archer shoots arrows onto the shrine roof.
Arrows are traditional used to ward off evil.
Such as the hamaya (arrow charms) and the ritualistic arrows placed on roofs during construction projects.