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Legends of Tono and Tales of Two Lakes

Samurai Hikayama Matsuri festival Kakunodate


i ro ha ni ho he to
chi ri nu ru wo
wa ka yo ta re so
tsu ne na ra mu
u wi no o ku ya ma
ke fu ko e te
a sa ki yu me mi shi
we hi mo se su

Though fragrant are the colors,
Yet shall the flowers scatter.
Who in our world
Could forever endure?
Over the mountain of transcendence
Let us today cross,
And there will be no more shallow dreams,
No more drunken illusions.

Kûkai (空海)

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Before turning to Tono, let me complete the talk of Hiraizumi and its golden relics with Basho's story of Yoshitune, the warrior who precipitated the downfall of the Fujiwara clan of Haraizumi, whose golden relics we saw there unearthed at the temple. It is a story that sets the stage for all samurai movies. Yoshitune left Hiraizumi to fight with his half brother, Yoritomo the great warlord who founded the first shogunate. However Yoritomo became both worried by the power of the Fujiwaras and jealous of Yoshitune's skill and fame, and the stage was set for a classic betrayal when Yoshitune returned to Hiraizumi. Seeing no escape Yoshitune killed his family, set his castle on fire and disemboweled himself and his retainer was stuck with a porcupine of arrows defending his master. Yoritomo then ordered the Fujiwaras to be wiped out and the temple at Hiraizumi to be destroyed, where the buried relics remained until they were unearthed. Legend says the real warriors were not killed but fled to Mongolia leaving their doubles to suffer in their stead.

The legend of the girl who became Oshira-sama

Three nights ago we arrived in Tono, a small inland town the subject of the exotic animist "Legends of Tono" by the early 20th century writer Kunio Yanagita, including shape shifting foxes, dumb impish water spirits who like to Sumo wrestle passers by and pull their intestines out their anus and a famous story of a farm girl who married her horse and when her father hung it in a tree and decapitated it, it flew with it into heaven to become Oshira-sama the goddess of fertility, still used in the form of dolls by blind crones to contact the dead during Northern Osore-zan Taisai festivals.

After driving through town fruitlessly trying to find the library where there is supposed to be free internet, we ended up at a bizarre supermarket built like an opera house with a huge fountain-like structure crowning its roof. In the process I found there was a free wireless internet service in the carpark. I've heard these stories of people who trawl round neighbourhoods and parasitize unwary people using wireless modems but its impossible to tell what the real source of these 'free' services is.

Afterwards Christine noticed that there was a shrine on a hill on the south west edge of town and we drove up to find a place to secrete ourselves and found the whole forested hillside running with small isolated roadways, and parked the night in the forest beside the shrine's graveyard, just up the hill from a delightful public toilet, in a scintillating and fragrant condition of perfection, so clean that I found myself backing out wiping the floor with spare toilet paper as I left!


In the morning we found the site of the 500 17th century buddhas carved on rocks at Gohyaku-rakan above the town in a mossy valley with a stream running through. They were almost unrecognisable when you arrive, but as you look further they are all around you.

We then went out to a 'model village' Denshoen, where they have some traditional thatched farm houses set up as a folk museum. All over Japan farm houses have adobe or brick grain storage houses, and this one had been set up as a shrine to Oshira-sama for women who wanted to get pregnant to write messages on doll's shawls and post them on little totems with the heads of all kinds of animals and people, so that there were literally thousands of these Oshira-sama dolls.

Nearby is the Joken-ji temple where the Kappa-buchi sprites were said to have put out a temple fire so that a lion statue was erected in their honour. Behind it was the Kappa-buchi pool where women who offer breast like offerings are reassured of a plentiful milk supply. When we were there a man was persuading people to fish in the poll with cucumbers which made the Japanese laugh with hilarious laughter.

Takko Hime

From Tono we moved further North West yesterday to Tazawa-ko, the deepest lake in Japan. It is also surrounded in a sexual legend, similar to the Maori story of Taranaki, Ruapehu who both loved the delightful Pihanga but fought until they now stand separated as volcanoes. In the tale of the beautiful Takko Hime and her husband Hachirotaro she drank too much water and became a water dragon. Her husband ate a fish which also made him suffer the same fate. The fury of their transformation from human to animal created twin lakes Tazawa and Towada and the passion of their love making still prevents the lakes from freezing over in winter. Surrounding the lake are several statues of Hime, from staunch Buddhist Kannon figure, through a mermaid with a serpent's tail to a golden Pania like goddess on the shore.

Yesterday we made it to Kakunodate where there is a whole street of samurai houses and the festival is about to begin. Last night we again slept in the forest above the town and managed finally for 100 yen to get a piece of fabric which functions as a mosquito net to put over the windows, which made the van stiflingly hot but did the trick to avoid Japanese encephalitis (actually a disease of all South Asia which we never worried about in India where there was an epidemic as we passed through Gorakhapur).

The weather is threatening a typhoon so we are parking up for a day at the beginning of a major festival here; Hikayama Matsuri full of colourful chariots of the samurai being dragged through the streets and folk song and dancing.

1 件のコメント:

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