Thursday, April 26, 2018

Shitennoji Shoryo-e 2018

四天王寺舞楽

Every year on April 22nd (from 12:30~about 15:00), Shitennoji Temple in Osaka hosts a memorial ceremony for Prince Shotoku who was a patron of the temple and proponent of introducing Buddhism to the whole of Japan in the 7th century. April 22nd is the anniversary of Prince Shotoku's death.
This event is called Shoryo-e (click here for coverage from last year).

The performances at this ceremony reflect Bugaku, a type of courtly dance that is accompanied by ancient court music (gagaku) and/or Buddhist chanting (shomyo). More specifically the dances are from "gigaku" performances which were imported from the ancient Korean culture of the time. The dances that are seen at this ceremony reflect a tradition that is over 1400 years old. However, the performances being open to the public for viewing by commoners and lay people is an introduction that came about in the 20th century. 

There are several places where you can observe bugaku (Osaka Tentangu, Sumiyoshi Taisha, Iga Jingu and Heian Jingu) but those places are usually Shinto shrines but the direct connection with Prince Shotoku introducing this ritual at Shitennoji Temple ties this ritual to this Buddhist site so it is a rare chance to see the bugaku with shomyo (Buddhist chanting). This is why the Shoryo-e Bugaku Ritual was registered as an "Important Intangible Folk Property of Japan" (重要無形民俗文化財 / Shouyou Mukei Minzoku Bunkazai) in 1976.

This photo journal is from April 22, 2018. The ritual was performed by the Tennoji Bugaku Society (四天王寺舞楽協会), who also provided the historical information.


A dancer of the "karyobin" dance. The word "karyoubin" also refers to the set of wings that the children wear on their costume for the dance; the word "karyoubin" originally refers to a mythical bird from India (like a phoenix).
Originally, Prince Shotoku ordered that boys descended from Shitennoji Temple members learn the "gigaku" dances an incorporate them into Buddhist ceremonies.
The tiara being worn is called a "mae-tengan" and the attached ornaments on top are called "kazashi."

The huge drums have towering ornaments.

Note the recurring "mitsu-domoe" (3-yin yang) insignia on the drum.
You often see the two or three tomoe designs on drums.

Huge red decorations on the stage.
The stage is set on a stone bridge over a pond at the temple.
This stage is called "ishi butai" (石舞台) which represents Buddhist Paradise floating over the impure world.

Offerings are passed from people in Buddhist masks, to monks and men in deity masks on the ishibutai then to kids in the karyobin costumes who take the offering up to the temple hall.
The mask here is quite worn which makes it difficult to recognize.
This masks are quite similar to the Manbu Oneri masks that you see at places like Dainenbutsu-ji Temple, that ceremony takes place just a few days later each year.

Temple volunteers bearing the masks of Buddhist deities.

Shishimai dancers.
Note the unusual patterns on the fabric. Modern shishimai has accumulated a tradition of wearing a specific style of arabesque patterned fabric so this style looks quite out of the ordinary.

Shishimai, a drum, the red ornament and the roof of temple building.
The red decoration is meant to represent a mythical flower that is said to exist in heaven.

Performing the "enbu" dance. 

Note the elaborate costume.

The enbu dance feature unusual hats.

Bugaku dancers in a military style costume.
Note the decorative bow-case at his hip.
Also notice the snake figure coiled around the spear.

Here you can see the quiver of golden arrows on his back.

This seems to be a performance of "Taihei raku" which represents a victory celebration of men wearing a military-themed costume.

Note the horned mask that he wears on his belt.

Four men on stage dance in symmetrical patterns.

He is a nice view of the ornamental hat.

Note that each dancer wears a different mask on their torso.

As the dancers put down their spears and draw their swords, this is when monks light fires next to the stage.
This is one of the faster moving an higher stepping parts of the dance.

The pointed fingers are kept on the left hand as the sword is brandished.

A nice pose of the sword catches the sunlight.

Ran Ryou Ou.
This dance is based on the story of a Chinese king who wore a fierce looking mask to rally his troops.

This pose looks like a scene from "Harry Potter" as the masked king brandishes a baton.

The five colored banners around the temple in the background are common on Buddhist Temples.
The performers curtain in the foreground has the "mokko-mon" crest of the Oda clan.

A drum in the foreground and a bell tower in the background.

Barrier-Free Expo

大阪バリアフリー2018

The Barrier Free exposition was an event held at INTEX (the international expo center) which gathers manufacturers and vendors of products which are designed to help people with physical impairments. These products include equipment to help people in wheel chairs access facilities, vehicles and buildings that would people extremely difficult for people in wheelchairs to enter.

With the aging population, overburdened caregiver workforce, labor shortages the nursing home industry in Japan is facing serious challenges and there have been public expressions by society and politicians which prefer technological developments to address the challenge rather than changing immigration policies to bolster the number of foreign workers.

Many of the products here are aimed at nursing homes, hospitals and large school consumers of accessibility products. There are also vendors who offer small solutions for households that need workarounds for various physical challenges.

The event took place from 4/19-4/21 of 2018. This photo journal is from the last day.
The INTEX convention center covers a large area so you a often see some space reserved for massage machines but this event had far more massagers than I have ever seen; there were several areas like this where you could try foot massagers and massage chairs.

A bathtub with a built-in hydraulic scissor life and convertible table/chair for caregivers to help patients. There are also multiple shower nozzles with long hoses and various electronic controls.

There were a variety  of portable bag toilets. Most of which had similar plastic and vinyl designs.
You also see simplified bucket/seat versions of this for emergency disaster shelter supplies in Japan.

A bathtub with an opening side door for a non-lift transfer. 
A special wheelchair that loads into a 240V hydraulic lift system which pivots the person over the tub before lowering.



A wheelchair that allows helpers to move the chair up of down stairs.
In addition to the long handles there is battery powered array of wheels which shift the weight of the chair from one step to the next.... very .... slowly.

Powered wheelchairs with many actuated controls for moving different body joints.

A racing wheelchair. Made with carbon fiber, aluminum and steel parts for minimum weight.

A Honda Walk Assist system.
Designed to help people who are undertaking physical therapy. Rather than a weight-bearing exoskeleton this device aims to support balance and support a smooth stride in 20-minute physical therapy sessions but the battery is designed to last for several kilometers of walking.

A battery powered system to support the legs and lower back of people who are in need of physical therapy.
There is also a hand control which includes an alarm system to summon assisstance.

Another bathtub system. This one seems smaller, lower and simpler with a more comfortable cushion in the tub.

A portable, battery operated system that is designed to lower people in a swimming pool.

Hard working employees at this exhibition both demonstration how this bath system can be operated by  the patient.

This zero-turn-radius chair with remote operation and automation features at the Whill booth.

Whill wheelchairs.
Note the unusual braided designs of the front wheels.

A foot-free control system for a car.
This system was attached to a racing simulator.
The disc under the wheel is used to control acceleration by rotating is right or left with your finger tips and returns to a centered position via a set of springs.
The lever controls braking and the parking/emergency brake can be set by depressing and locking the lever.

Another system using a more familiar looking lever for acceleration, similar to boats and aircraft rather than motorcycle handlebar throttle/brake controls.

Van designed to carry a single passenger in a wheelchair.

A vendor selling various systems to modify difficult chairs for accessibility.

A bed with various motor to maneuver patients, avoid bedsores and change positions.
The mattress is covered with silver ion material to reduce bacterial smell.
Also note the red emergency lever on the control box which quickly puts the bed into a CPR position.

Specialized portable wheelchair ramps.

A special high-contrast camera/screen system which helps people read print.

A system involving and heavy sheet which slides under the patient with straps that connect to the rolling crane.

Easy to handle chopsticks that are connected with a spring assisted assembly.

A low chair for people for people who have trouble sitting on the floor.
I know a lot of foreigners who would also like this.


Guide dogs. There were also stage demonstrations of guide dogs.



The station near the expo center had several staffers on call to assist the many people in wheelchairs as they use the trains to access the barrier-free expo.
The staff use the telephones at the stations (often locked near the platform) to call other stations so they can prepare to help the passenger off the train.
You can see some of the portable ramps leaning near the doors.