Today’s update is huge, and there’s gonna be more on the same topic tomorrow, but there’s a good reason for it: I would feel like doing injustice to the whole event we visited if I didn’t document it in as much detail as I can. So enjoy~
I’ll note that I don’t know about the exact meaning of many things in the following ceremonies, so I will just write down things as I understood them from the bit of English explanation that was given.
As you may know, many numbers have special meanings in Asian cultures. One of those fateful numbers is the number 9. Thought to bring good luck, how could there be any day more lucky than the 9th day of the 9th month? So on this day, the Kamigamo-shrine, the oldest shinto-shrine of Kyoto, holds a special event: The karasu-zumo, the “Crow sumo”, in which priests caw and young boys face each other in a sumo-fight. It is believed that the innocence of the kids as they perform the sumo will drive away evil spirits that would otherwise harm the country’s harvest.
This is the event we got the chance to visit during our stay in Kyoto. So we took the bus all the way to the outskirts of Kyoto and joined the masses already gathered at the shrine, waiting patiently in the summer heat for this unique spectacle to begin.
1.) Amongst the visitors was this group from the Kamigamo-Kindergarten, which was especially enthusiastic about cheering on the boys.
2.) After a long wait and explanations on the event in Japanese and (hard to understand) English, the young fighters finally enter the place.
3.) The first part of a long row of ceremonies was a shinto-priest purifying the audience on all sides by waving a gohei-stick.
4.) I’m not sure what exact position this woman held, but she was dressed in an incredibly ornate kimono. I think this is how you would have to imagine a princess in the old Heian-kyo (the ancient Kyoto in early Japan). Her main task seemed to be to watch over the event and read through a list of the fighters, as seen on the picture.
5.) In the next part of the ceremony two priests went hopping exactly nine steps between the blue “tents” and two sand-hills piled up in front of the building where the “princess” was seated. Each time they would carry an item to the sand pile.
6.) The three items were a bow, then an arrow, and lastly a sword.
7.) After gathering all the items the priests said down and started to imitate the cawing of crows for a bit.
8.) After this the items were removed and the boys were led around the “arena”, first bowing to the ring in which they were gonna hold their fights, then again to the “princess”, all while circling the sand piles on each side three (I think?) times.
9.) And finally, after about half an hour of ceremony the ring was prepared one last time so that the main event could finally start: The sumo-fighting, which you are gonna see tomorrow!