Office Flora – Hiromi Nishiwaki – 祇園祭 (Gion Matsuri Festival)🌸😊🌈🗾 Final

Published by Hiromi Nishiwaki on

The Gion Festival in Kyoto (Kyôto Gion sairei), from the series One Hundred Famous Views in the Various Provinces (Shokoku meisho hyakkei)
Utagawa Hiroshige II (Shigenobu)  (Japanese, 1826–1869), 1859 (Ansei 6),

Good morning!

Today I'd like to talk about Gion Matsuri Festival
Because it is a timely topic. The Origin of Gion Matsuri Festival is an EPIDEMIC! 

I regret to announce that, Gion Festival Parade is Cancelled Due to Corona virus.
I hope next year Gion festival will be held.
Gion Matsuri-02.jpg

What is Gion Matsuri Festival?

 The Gion Matsuri Festival began in 869 as a way to appease Gozu Tennō (牛頭天王) , which had been believed to bring diseases and misfortunes to people, including epidemic. It is originated with a Goryoue (御霊会) that was held at Shinsenen (神泉苑) of Heian imperial court in 869, to sooth souls of those who perished when a plague had spread throughout the land, and came to be celebrated every year as the shrine's festival.

Gion festival is famous for spectaculars grand float procession, Yama-hoko Junko (山鉾巡行)--- a parade of 33 floats, towed through the streets of Kyoto. The floats weigh as much as 12 tons  (25 meters tall) and turning them is the highlight of the procession.
Pity! I wished Gozu Tennō (牛頭天王) release us from the trial of an epidemic. Perhaps, he tells to learn from the pestilence... 

More About Gozu Tennō (牛頭天王)

Literally, it means "ox-head-heaven-king (king of Buddhism) and a protector of Gion Shoja temple (祇園精舎/Jetavana-vihāra) , and known as a deity of epidemic disease.
It is  enshrined in Yasaka-jinja Shrine in Kyoto.

No alternative text description for this image

Unique religious concept of Japan, "Shinbutsu-shūgō" (神仏習合) = Syncretization of Shinto with Buddhism

It is very interesting that Gozu tenno is considered the identical with Susanoo (素戔男尊), Shinto kami in Japanese mythology associated with the sea and storms.
A concept of 
"Shinbutsu-shūgō", "syncretization of Shinto Kami and Buddhism deities" is a religious concept, very unique to Japan.
Dragon Susanoo no mikoto and the water dragon.jpg
Susanoo (素戔男尊) - Utagawa Kuniyoshi

Ideology and definition of Kami (神) (Shinto) and Hotoke (仏) (Buddhism) have been blended according to the change of times in Japan
(神)- Shinto god
(仏) - Savior in Buddhism

 I would say general interpretation of History of Japan, or history of yamato imperial court, started with Kami, before emperors in Yamato court officially established the concepts of Kami and developped Shinto Religion in early 8th century, by complining books about
anecdotal histories of the Yamato imperial court, by imperial order.

However, before such establishment, Buddhism had been already transmitted from China and Korea
in early 6th century, and we had already included it in our culture and already Japanized. This explains well how we incorporate "objects" from other country and how we "Japanize" them. We are an organic, flexible, unique and stubborn, just like you.

*Example of Syncretization of Shinto with Buddhism

It is written ; 祇園大明神 牛頭天皇と申ス素戔嗚尊ナリ。
 Gion Daimyojin (祇園大明神)=Gozu Tenno 牛頭天王 (heavenly king of Buddhism) = Susanoo 素戔嗚尊(Shinto God)
*In this text, "Tenno" is different from Japanese Emperors. It is a word, related to buddhism means heavenly kings.

The Roots of Japan

This is really a challenging subject. To explain the roots of Japan,  I'd like to also mention, we need to discover more Jomon Period history (1000–300 BCE).
History of Jomon period aren't appeared very much in our school text books.
Personally I am very curious about Jomon period, especially Jomon Venus. I'll write about Jomon after I read 10 more books.

Gion Matsuri Festival in Ukiyoe