Google+ Rurousha 流浪者: Tired of bad luck? Swap your bullfinch!

Friday, 20 January 2012

Tired of bad luck? Swap your bullfinch!

When it comes to festivals in Japan, I can never decide what the correct blogging procedure is: write about it before the festival so that others can go, too; or write about it after the festival so that you can include the latest photos. Both?

This time, though, I'm going to do a story before the event. Partly because it's so cute that you should really go, and partly because I probably won't have time – drat! – to go myself this year. These photos were taken last winter.

Every January, on the 24th and the 25th, Kameido Tenjin in Tokyo holds a ceremony called usokae shinji (うそ替え神事) or "uso exchange ritual": worshippers bring wooden carvings of bullfinches and exchange them for new ones, hoping to turn past bad luck into good luck. This belief is based on word play: the bird's name, uso, is written as うそ in Japanese; but uso, written as , can also mean lie or falsehood. Play with meanings, and you turn the bad luck into a lie, i.e. non-existence. While they're swopping uso, they chant "kaemashō, kaemashō" or "let's change, let's change".


Although the exchange itself is on 24 and 25 January, the shrine displays the wooden carvings until February, when it also has a plum blossom festival. Plum trees are associated with Sugawara no Michizane, who's enshrined at Kameido Tenjin, but all of that is another post for another day. (There's also an Honourable Dog that's covered in salt, because there used to be a booming salt trade in this area in the Edo period. See? Lots of stories to tell about this shrine!) 

Ema



Main shrine at Kameido Tenjin

One of the famous drum bridges

The temizuya, where you wash your hands, is in the shape of a turtle (kame in Japanese), which symbolizes longevity. Click on the photos to see bigger versions.

Sugawara no Michizane

23 comments:

  1. Did my comment went through?

    Oh well, might as well type again, just in case.

    Love that water spouting turtle. :)

    The bridge is cool too. ^^

    Those wood carvings are way too cute!

    About posting on events - whichever way is fine for me. I most probably won't have the chance to visit them anyway. Booohooo

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Yes, I received both, but I've only published this one. Censorship! Horror! ^^

      This is one of my favourite shrines, especially in May and June, when it's wisteria time. Even better, you can clearly see Sky Tree from the shrine! ;)

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    2. Air Asia X had a pretty cheap airfare promo for travel in May-June 2012. Resisted taking it up though, I do not like rain!

      Looking at wisteria and having the Sky Tree as a background for my photo at the shrines sure sounds tempting for me now!

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    3. I'm probably the only person in Tokyo who loves rainy season, but ... I do! Wait until you see hydrangea in soft summer rain, and maybe you'll change your mind! ^^

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    4. Being uneducated oaf that I am, I probably should say - oh, but of course! You are from SA. Don't have rain there, right? ;p

      I get plenty of rain here, thank you very much. No amount of wisteria, hydrangea and whatever "a" you have there, you are so not gonna tempt me to come to wet, humid Japan!

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    5. Ah. Yes. This other uneducated barbarian ^^ should've known better than to tempt you with rain. Been there, done that, huh? OK, spring or autumn it will have to be!

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  2. Very cool! I think it would be great to do a before to let people know that the event is coming up and an after to show what it was like for people who cant make it or are overseas, etc :)

    Japan Australia

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Now there's a challenge for a writer and an amateur photographer: to do two posts about one event, both equally interesting! :) I'll try to go next Tuesday, but according to the weather prediction, it might snow again! Brrr.

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  3. I am intrigued by the many interesting festivals in Japan. There seem to be so many, and for such unexpected reasons. I wonder if every shrine in Japan has its own special festivals perhaps? I love the idea of changing your bad luck with a bullfinch.

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    1. Hallo, Jenny! I wouldn't be surprised if every shrine (and temple), even the tiny ones, had its own festival. If nothing else, they all celebrate New Year. The next intriguing one: Hari-kuyo, the festival of the broken needles, on 8 February. According to tradition, dressmakers take their old, broken, rusty needles to a temple and stick them into soft chunks of tofu bean curd to thank them for their hard work! Talk about unexpected reasons! :) PS: I'm going to do my best to attend this needles festival. It tickles me pink!

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    2. You know, I love the fact that Japanese thinks everything has a soul even inanimate objects.

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    3. I agree! Or in Google parlance: +1!

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  4. I didn't know there was Sugawara no michizane in Kameido.
    Did you go to Sun street in Kameido?
    When I was a child, sun street wasn't built yet.

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    1. I didn't know about Sun Street, but I've just Googled it. I'll go there when I return to Kameido either for the bullfinches next week or for the plum blossoms festival in February. Thanks for telling me! ^^

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  5. Did you consult an oracle in Kameidotenjin?
    It is said that There are no badluck written oracles in Yushimatenjin, so I consulted five oracles in Yushimatenjin. There were no bad luck written oracles among them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hallo! I didn't know this! No bad luck? Then I must definitely go back to Kameido Tenjin for some good luck! ^^

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  6. How cute is that! You have so many interesting shrines around you...bet you're there everyday! I'm heading your way once work settles down, you make everything sound too fascinating to resist!

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    1. I want to walk to another shrine this morning to clear my brain before I continue with my editing. (It happens to be a cute, sexy and naughty shrine.) It's cold and overcast and not ideal for photos, but what the heck, let's go. Post to follow soon! ^^

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  7. I'm probably mimicking everyone one of the above comments, but: those carvings are actually the cutest things I have seen in my entire life. This just added another time frame in which I want to come visit Japan in. First world problems.

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    1. Well, if you come in February, you can see the cutest carvings plus plum blossoms!

      I know! I have a solution! Just move here permanently! :D

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    2. Ha! I am seriously starting to consider it. I was wondering yesterday how I would explain to mum my packing up everything only a few months after arriving here. :P

      PS. Oh and thanks. You just made my decision harder again about when to visit. :P

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    3. You could always tell your mom you're escaping from New Zealand's earthquak ...

      Oh. Wait. That won't work. :(

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    4. Har! I can give it a shot. :P But I must say, with the insane fires all over Australia at the moment, it's as good an excuse as any.

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