Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Aburahi Shrine Festival


Aburahi is a shrine that is located in small town near the edge of Shiga Prefecture.
Aburahi station is the nearest train station and is located on the JR Kusatsu line, the shrine itself is located more than a 30 minute walk (1.7km) from the station; but the station has bicycles for visitors to rent (starting at about 500 yen).

The history of the shrine seems to be somewhat obscure but the current buildings were constructed in the Muromachi period (1336-1573). Several of the buildings on the shrine complex are registered as an "Important Cultural Property" including the main hall (honden, built in 1493), a prayer  hall (haiden 拝殿), as well as a gate (the "sakura gate") and a gallery (both built in 1566).

In addition to the architectural properties which are considered part of Japan's cultural the shrine also has a the "Yakko-buri" festival that is considered an "intangible folk property" of Shiga prefecture. However, the Yakko-buri festival is only held once every five years (the last being in 2016). The Yakko-buri festival involves 60 people chanting and performing a processional dance. Every year there is a spring festival on May 1st (to which the Yokko-buri is added twice a decade).

The shrine is dedicated to the the god "Aburai-dai-myojin." The name of the god is derived from the story in which that god descended from a nearby mountain (Aburaidake) "shinning like a blaze of oil" that is why the kanji for the shrine (also the god and the mountain) are the symbols for the words "oil" and "sun".

The kaguradan of Aburahi shrine.
Note a number of interesting elements of the roof design; the arched extension that covers the stair entrance and the open-sided roof peak with two slopes which extended to a secondary tier roof with four slopes.
The roof style is called an "irimoya" (入母屋 "gabled, hipped roof") or "irimoya-zukuri" (入母屋造り "gabled, hipped roof building"

Brass hanging lantern (tsuri-doro) with the shrine crest.
The shrine roof in the background bears different emblems.

Go-shiki-kiri-mon (paulownia leaf with 5 and 7 leaf branches in the background) crest on the roof of the honden (main sanctuary hall). This roof element is called an "onigawara" (even if there is no "oni" in the design).
This crest has been associated with the imperial family, the Toyotomi clan and is now the symbol of the Japanese government and the prime minister. 

Shinma statue. Also bearing the shrine crest.

An information board for the shrine.
It looks neglected as the lettering on the lower part is faded from weathering.

A stack of oil cannisters in the Sakura-mon gate.
Because of the shrine's origin (or perhaps the revers?) the area became associated with oil producers.

Kazaridaru, decorative sake barrels.

The entrance to the shrine central sanctuary.
Note the lanterns at the entrance.
One in black has the shrine name with the shrine emblem.
The second, in red, has a mitsu-domoe mark; common among shrines.

Rakuyaji Temple

This temple's main attraction is the statue of Kanon with 11 faces. Kanon is the goddess of salvation and is often described as having 1000 arms (or sculpted with many arms). The temple is located about 1km from Aburahi shrine.

A garden with stone lanterns.

A signpost for the temple with a ninja theme.
This sign is part of a local tour course which uses ninja imagery.
The design is part of the ninja trail for Iga and Koga villages.


A sumo dohyo at the temple.

An incense pot are the temple with unusual leg designs.
Note the 8-spoke wheel emblem. The wheel with 8-spokes is a common symbol in Buddhism.

An ogre on the "onigawara."
The nokihiragawara (round tile end caps) have the wheel design.

Jizou statues at the shrine with red bibs to "keep them warm."
A tasoto, stone pagoda. This example has 13 levels. Other examples may have 3 levels but there is usually an number, representing an imcompleteness toward heaven.

The ema plate have a hand holding prayer beads.

A Buddhist bell with typical elements. Including heavenly beings, resonating metal "chikubi" ("nipples" at the top), musical instruments, clouds and dragons.

A large paper lantern (chochin) with the temple emblem at the gate.

A Nio guardian at the gate (enclosed in glass).

Miniature versions of the temple's famous 11-faced Kanon.

Unusual stone lanterns.

The Spring festival; a mikoshi parade

Resting in front of Aburahi station as the parade moves back to Aburaihi shrine.

Volunteers carry the shrine down the street.
Note the man with the clipboard; lots of volunteers to manage, a rout to follow, schedules to keep and sponsors to visit!

The parade passing in front of a car dealer.

Note the shrine crest on the mikoshi.
Also note the houju emblem on the roof.

The girl in the Hello-Kitty shirt is making a cute pose.

Another mikoshi. This one has a phoenix on the roof.
It is typical to see pairs of mikoshi with these two types of ornaments.
Getting on the horses using the bed of the delivery truck.

The shinto priest (kannushi) helping the second man onto a horse. 

Riding off into the sunset... and back to Aburahi shrine.

Aburahi Station

The station has a ninja theme.

A colorful tanuko in a ninja outfit... that does not conceal his tanuki scrotum.

Station information with a ninja theme. Telling visitors about the station's history, layout, bike rental services and the local ninja theme.

Tsuge station. A junction of train lines in the hear of ninja-country.
Note the ninja decorations helping visitors find ninja tourist traps.

A photo-op spot in front of Aburahi station.

Note the architecture of the station and the large gateway ornament which resembles a .scroll and crossed swords (hands?)

A local guide map.