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Have you ever heard of the memorial ceremony at Sentei Festival in Shimonoseki city? This memorial ceremony is one of the most important events of the Shimonoseki Sea festival, which is held in May every year for three days. For what is this memorial ceremony and what had happened in the Shimonoseki area about 840 years ago? It is the story of Taira Family, which was a major clan of Japanese Samurai. You will get known it through Sentei Festival.
Shimonoseki is a city at the end of the west side of Honshu, which is the main island of Japan. The town is famous for the Dan-no-Ura battle. Two samurai clans, Taira and Minamoto, who came originally from the emperor family, had the last battle there in 1185. Until then they had fought twice, in Ichinotani (nowadays in Suma, Kobe) and Yashima (nowadays Kochi city). Tiara family had lost both times, so they escaped to the west. The third and the last battle between both families happened in Dan-no-Ura (nowadays Shimonoseki city).
This last battle was over when the Taira clan was destroyed. One member of the Taira clan was Emperor Antoku, who was only eight years old at that time. He became the 81st Japanese emperor at the age of three. The following year after Taira family destruction, in 1186, the remains of emperor Antoku were placed in the Amida shrine (current Akamada shrine). On the 24th of March, the day when the emperor Antoku died, the court ladies of Taira clan visited Amida shrine to worship. This was the beginning of the memorial ceremony.
The memorial ceremony for emperor Antoku is famous along with the court ladies procession. This procession is composed of people, who act as oirans (courtesans), children, court ladies and guards. At the four sites on the procession way from Izaki- Cho to Akama shrine, the ladies, who act as oiran show a particular way of footsteps, which are called “Soto Hachi Moji (outward eight shapes)”. These steps are the symbol of oiran. The lady, who acts as oiran wears Japanese wooden footwears (takageta), which are about 30 cm high. It is challenging to walk in this high wooden footwear wearing heavy kimono. The final destination of the procession is Akama shrine, which means red shrine. This shrine has white walls with a beautiful red gate according to its name (aka = red). At night this shrine has a lovely light up.
Dates: May 2nd – 4th every year
Place: Akama shrine
Homepage (Japanese only): http://www.tiki.ne.jp/~akama-jingu/
Address: 4-1 Amida-Ji Cho, Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture
From JR Shimonoseki 10 min. by bus
From JR Shinkansen (bullet train) Shin Shimonoseki 30 min. by bus
Every year about 400,000 visitors come to see this ceremony (It means, that there is no place to park a car.)
At this memorial ceremony, you will notice how elegantly women reproduce of the procession which is 840 years old. And how famous Taira clan is among the Japanese even nowadays.
Japan is a country of festivals indeed. Matsuri is an essential part of traditional Japanese culture. Thus, every day somewhere in Japan a festival takes place. There are traditional and modern festivals, on the sea and the ground, in summer and winter. Japanese are hardworking people. However, when you attend at least one festival in Japan, you will understand how locals like to party. The article under the link below will introduce you to a celebration on any day of the year. I am sure you will find an event that suits your interests utmost!
A lot of people when they get to a Matsuri for the first time feel a bit lost. They confuse about what is happening around. If you are new to Japanese Festivals or want to know an alternative way of how you can enjoy these events, the following article will provide you with a set of helpful tips on how to choose a proper festival and activities you should try there. Please don`t hesitate to take a look at it!
Image courtesy of Tomomarusan
For all foodies who enjoy Japanese Festivals would be nice to get acquainted with the rich choice offered by Yatai (Japanese festival food stalls). The food presented during Matsuri is pretty different from the one you get at the restaurants in Japan. Besides, there is a certain charm in grabbing some snack from a food stall and diving back into the festival crowd. I am sure that you will discover something new about Japanese festival food from the following article!