Higashi Hongan-ji and Fushimi Inari Taisha

Friday morning we visited the Higashi Hongan-ji. Unfortunately, the main gate and one hall have the roof replaced and are therefor hidden in a special construction. So there wasn’t much to see and our visit ended rather quickly.

Around noon we went to the Fushimi Inari Taisha. They held a fire ritual, ohitakisai, in which wodden prayer sticks are burnt and in the evening Kagura dance was taking place.

We arrived ahead of time and queued up nicely at the entrance to the area where the ohitakisai took place. In the ritual grounds, three pyres of prayer sticks had been erected and decorated with pine branches. After a short ceremony at the far end of the plot, where a small altar was decorated, the pyres were set aflame. There were so many prayer sticks, that the burning lasted for over one hour. In that hour prayers were chanted and mikos performed a special dance. Then the ceremony ended rather abrupt with the head priest saying, we are finished. Just like that …

Afterwards we walked up Mt. Inari. We walked through thousands of tori. At the foot og the hill, there were some paths, that were completely covered by tori, but when ascending the mountain there were less and less tori. Although it was quite strenuous, we made it pretty fast and almost got lost on our way down! On Mt. Inari are so many paths one could choose from, that we had to be really careful.

In the evening we watched the karuga dance. We had expected it would last aboult half an hour and was similar to the mikos’ dances before, but we were very very very wrong. It to two hours. Two. Hours! It started around six and the shrine at the mountain foot was only lit by a small fire. Then there was a lotof slow traditional Japanese music and in the end som dancing with a twig. In between the performances with different instruments and from some singers, the dancer would ritually present the twig to either side and someone would say “oooOOOOooo” from where you couldn’t see him. This was quite funny. The rest could have been faster…

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