七月〈文月〉 July / Fumizuki

盆地、京都の夏は風も吹かず、蓋をされた蒸器の中にいるように暑く、陰に入っても滴る汗が止まりません。

そんな京都の七月は一日から三十一日までの一カ月間、祇園祭りの活気に京都人のみならず、全国からの観光客で更に熱気を帯び、街中祇園祭一色となります。

Summer in Kyoto can be unpleasantly hot and humid, the downside of being in a basin, shielded by mountains. The placid climate most of the year takes on the character of steamer with the lid on, and even in shade the perspiration flows.

But July is a month-long festival nonetheless, with the Gion Matsuri running from the 1st to the 31st. It’s another of the great festivals that visitors travel from far and wide to see, and the town becomes abuzz with joyful energy.

一日~三十一日

From the 1st to the 31st

祇園祭は1100余年程の歴史があり、規模、伝統ともに、日本を代表する祭礼のひとつです。

正しくは「祇園御霊会」と呼ばれ、西暦869年、インド祇園精舎の守り神、牛頭天王を迎えて、その時流行した疫病の退散を祈願したのが始まりです。

牛頭天王は我が国の荒ぶる神・素戔嗚尊(スサノオミコト)と習合し、八坂神社の祭神として祀られ、神幸祭の17日夜、神輿に乗って氏子町内を渡御されます。この荒ぶる神を喜ばせ、遊ばせる為に美しい行列や歌舞音曲を行う山鉾町が主催する山や鉾。火災や動乱等の苦難を乗り越えて、京都の町衆が今日まで守り、現在では前祭(17日)23基と後祭(24日)10基の計33基が絢爛たる美術工芸品で装飾され京都の街を巡行する事から、動く美術館とも呼ばれ、祇園祭のハイライトとなっています。

The Gion Matsuri or Gion Goryo-e, as it’s officially known, is one of the largest festivals held in Japan, and historically, likely the oldest, with a known history that dates back 1100 years. In 869 CE infectious disease plagued the populace. In response, it appealed to the ancient salutary Indian Buddhist demigod Gomaya Griva Deva Raja also known as Gavagriva, and in Japanese Gozu Tenno.

Gomaya Griva Deva Raja then became one with a rather ferocious and malevolent Shinto deity known as Susano no Mikoto who holds custodianship of storms and seas, and is closely associated with the oftentimes wild storms of summer. His shrine is the Yasaka Shrine, located in Kyoto’s Gion district. On the night of the 17th an event occurs called Jinkosai, when the spirit of the shrine inhabits the smaller vessel known as the mikoshi (technically a “divine palanquin”). This smaller vessel, though still so large it requires a procession of stout men to carry it on their shoulders, is circulated through the district. The goal is to mollify the angry god, to soften him and make him smile. So the local community groups come together, dressed in traditional finery, to parade the mikoshi and regale it with song and dance. Kyoto’s townspeople have been carrying on this tradition unfailingly despite upheavals, fires, and other sorts of distractions and disasters. These gatherings – 23 of them on the 17th, 10 on the 24th – parade through a town that’s been transformed into a living repository of traditional arts and crafts – so much so that these events have come to be thought of as the “moving museum”. It is this that best characterizes the feeling of the great Gion Festival.

三十一日

31st

祇園祭を締めくくる行事として、夏越祭りがあります。鳥居に取り付けられた大きな茅の輪をくぐり、半年の厄や穢れを祓い無病息災も同時にお祈りします。

The Gion Matsuri draws to a close with a sort of sub-festival called Nagoshi Matsuri. Throngs of supplicants file through the shrine’s torii, or ceremonial gate, which has been outfitted with a circular thatched portal. The evil and ill-will, the things that tarnished the soul over the prior half year, are thereby stripped from them, and they go forward cloaked in a sense of well-being and health.


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