Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Owari Okunitama Jinja (Konomiya Jinja)                      UC

Owari Okunitama Jinja haiden
Owari Okunitama Jinja haiden
(photos courtesy of the shrine)
Date founded: Nara period (before 767). The present haiden was built at the beginning of the Edo period. 
Address: 1-1-1 Konomiya, Inazawa-shi, Aichi 492-8137
Tel/Information: 0587-23-2121
How to get there: Take the Meitetsu Nagoya Honsen line train from Nagoya Station to Konomiya Station, then 3 minutes on foot.  Or the JR Tokaido Line from Nagoya Station to Inazawa Station and then 15 minutes on foot.
Enshrined kami: Owari Okunitama no kami (Okuninushi). 
Prayers offered: Protection from danger (yakuyoke) especially in the ages of greatest danger (yakudoshi) which are age 25, 42 and 61 for men and 19, 33 and 37 for women plus one year before and after. 
Best time to go: During the main event at the shrine, the Hadaka Matsuri in January, and during cherry blossom season from late-March to early-April.

Torii of Owari Okunitama Jinja
Torii, sando and romon
Important physical features: Konomiya Jinja is built in the Owari zukuri style found only in the Aichi area of Japan. This involves a particular grouping of buildings beginning with the gabled (kirizumahaiden in front (also called a tatehaiden here), covered in Japanese cypress bark, with open sides and the gable facing forward. The honden in the rear is connected to the haiden by an intermediate liturgy hall (saimonden) and a short passageway. The 3-bay, 2-story main gate (romon) is an Important Cultural Property built in the early Muromachi era (1336-1573) and rebuilt in 1646. A free-standing, wooden-plank fence called a banbei stands between the romon gate and the haiden.

Important spiritual features: This shrine is dedicated to Okunitama no kami which is said to be another name for the rough spirit (aramitama) of Okuninushi. The shrine was founded sometime in the early Nara period but an ancient stone alter (iwakura), a place where the kami is said to descend to the earth, is located on the shrine grounds. The five stones are set out in a circle and according to shrine tradition, the rock formation is over two thousand years old. The majority of such iwakura remaining in Japan are from the Jomon period and their significance is a matter of speculation. Though some claim that iwakura were places for the kami to descend, thereby insinuating that Shinto is as ancient as Japan itself, others think they may have has a  place in funerary or other specific rites. However there is no question that both Shinto and Buddhism often located their places of worship on ancient sites that were used for some form of worship and Konomiya Jinja was no doubt one such place.

The "Naked Man Festival" (hadaka matsuri) of Owari Okunitama (Konomiya) Jinja
The "Naked Man Festival" (hadaka matsuri)
Description: Popularly called Konomiya Jinja, the shrine is properly called Owari Okunitama Jinja. Owari is the ancient name for the Aichi area of central Japan where one of its major cities, Nagoya, is located. A long approach passes under several wooden torii, the larger of which is in the ryoubu style with supporting legs in front and back, indicating a history of Shinto-Buddhist syncretism. This shrine is considered one of the “Five Jinja of Owari.” In the Nara period, there was a kokufu (local office of the Imperial Court) located next to this shrine.  This shrine was designated a Soja—an administrative classification of the mid-Heian period defining a shrine which enshrines all the gods of the province and represents shrines receiving offerings from the provincial governor. Essentially this points to the shrine’s importance since at least the twelfth-century.
Today, Konomiya Jinja is known nationally for its “naked-man” (hadaka) matsuri. Tradition has it that this festival first took place in 767AD, making it over 1200 years old. It was instituted in an attempt to ward off a plague and is properly considered a festival to exorcise bad spirits, but it is also a celebration of male virility. There are many such festivals in Japan with Konomiya perhaps the most famous, attracting thousands of male participants and some 300,000 spectators each year. Participants wear strips of colored cloth called naori gire to ward off evil. Such festivals are purification rites meant to remove impurity and open a path to good fortune. Basically, one man is chosen to be the “god-man” (shin otoko) who is designated to remove the pollution of the entire town. He does this by having thousands of men considered to be in the unlucky years (yakudoshi) touch him, transferring their bad luck to him. It is an honor to be chosen as the shin otoko—a scapegoatwho must be isolated within the shrine for three days before the festival, have his hair shaved off, and be fed on rice gruel—all in order to purify himself. The mostly heavy-drinking participants (they are running around almost naked in the middle of February after all), carry long bamboo poles covered with papers with the “excuses” of people who couldn’t make it to the festival, which they deposit at the shrine. When the shino otoko appears, these naked men basically cause a riot by trying to all reach the him at the same time. The shin-otoko's guards attempt to stop him getting killed in the resulting mayhem by throwing cold water on the crowd (the participants throw water on each other as well), until the shin otoko can pass through the crowd and in through a small opening in the shrine to end the festival. A man, tethered to a rope, is often sent out from the shrine to “rescue” the shino otoko. The next morning at 3am, he carries a dohei shinji (a cake of mochi rice mixed with ash) on his shoulders while being chased by visitors throwing small pebbles at him. The cakes have candles in them and if one should blow out it portends misfortune throughout the year. The dohei is then buried, symbolically burying the pollution and purifying the town for another year. A number of huge kagami mochi (a hard, dried rice-cake stacked three high, 6.5 feet tall and wide and weighing about 2 tons) is also prepared and cut into pieces to be distributed to visitors. As with many Shinto festivals, designed to take participants from the profane to the sacred world, a certain amount of sheer madness is required. The Hadaka Matsuri of Konomiya Jinja certainly fits that bill.

The "Naked Man Festival" (hadaka matsuri) of Owari Okunitama (Konomiya) Jinja
The "Naked Man Festival" (hadaka matsuri)
Festival: Hadaka Matsuri (properly called the Naoi shinji –“dispelling misfortune festival”), mid-February (thirteenth-day of the Lunar New Year so the date varies each year). Especially males of the ages 24-26, 40-42, and 60-62 are invited to take part, but basically all males (no women please) are invited to take part. Includes a procession to the shrine with multi-colored banners and bamboo poles. Not strictly speaking naked, the participants are all bare-chested and wearing white loin cloths.

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