Sunday, January 11, 2009

Tondo Matsuri

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Today was Tondo Matsuri. In different regions of Japan they call it by other names, but in essence it is a fire festival held around the second week of January when all the new year ornaments are ritually burned.

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Following the reading of a short norito (prayer) and offerings at a small altar in front of the bonfire, the festival leader sprinkles some Omiki (sacred sake) on the bonfire and the fire is then lit by villagers who were born in the same animal year as this year, the Ox.

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Sake warmed in bamboo is liberally served. Once the bonfire dies down a little the bamboo tubes filled with sake will be placed in the fire, but until then it is heated over a small charcoal barbecue.

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The village ladies serve Tonjiru (pork stew), wild boar stew, and nanakusa gayu, a rice porridge with 7 herbs that is supposed to ensure longevity and health.

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Village kids bring pieces of calligraphy expressing their wishes for the coming year and place them in the fire. If the paper rises into the air with the smoke then that child will become a good calligrapher.

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It was a bitterly cold and windy morning, with snow flurries, but there was quite a good turnout. A cynic might think it is because of the free sake and food.

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