Thursday, April 26, 2018

Shitennoji Shoryo-e 2018


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.