八月〈葉月〉 August/ Hazuki

まだまだ暑い京都といえども、そよ風が吹き出したり、虫の声が聞こえてきたりと、秋を感じだす頃です。また、お盆の終わりを告げる五山の送り火は京都の夏の風物詩ともいえます。

It’s still quite hot in Kyoto, but the gentle breezes carrying the song of crickets in the fields hint at the approach of autumn. This is the season of O-bon, when our world coincides most closely with the world of those we are connected to who have stepped into the beyond. Gozan no Okuribi is the ceremonial bonfire that marks its end, and represents the utmost expression of the seasonal traditions of Kyoto.

一日

1st

古くは、田の実の節といいましたが、田の実とは稲穂の事で、たわわに実った稲の穂を神に感謝し、祝ったのが八朔祭である。この日、各神社では豊穣祈願の神事を行います。この頃、田園の稲穂に実が突き出し秋の訪れを感じます。

This day was known in olden times as Tonomu no Sechi. “Tonomu” is the new rice sprout, and while today the day is known as Hassaku, its essential meaning remains. It’s a day when people give thanks for the new harvest of rice, to celebrate the cycle it’s a part of, and to prevail upon the powers that be for another abundant crop. The associated festival is the Hassaku Matsuri. The focus of all the Shinto shrines in the region is the same, to entreat the deities to give their blessings to the crops. The sight of fields filled with bending rice stalks heralds autumn.

十六日

16th

盂蘭盆会の行事で、五つの各山にある字や形に添った火床に午後八時、大・妙法・船形・左大文字・鳥居形の順に火がつけられていき、五山の送り火が行われます。仏教が庶民に浸透するようになった室町時代以降に起こったといわれていますが、口碑によると、昔、大文字山の麓にあった浄土寺が炎上したとき、本尊の阿弥陀如来が峰に飛び移って難を逃れ、その時の光明をかたどって点火したのが起源といわれています。弘法大志はこの光明を未来に残して、人々の極楽の機縁にしようと思われ、「大」の一字に封じ込まれました。

Japan’s philosophical heart is divided between the precepts of the indigenous Shinto religion and Buddhism, which came to Japan just around fifteen centuries ago, but inculcated itself into the fabric of culture completely. The Gozan no Okuribi bonfire is commonly thought of as the Buddhist O-bon. For this ceremony gargantuan Chinese characters are formed on five mountainsides, and at precisely 8:00 p.m. they’re set ablaze in a specific order, beginning with the character “dai” [大], meaning “large” or “great”. This ceremony is said to date from Japan’s Muromachi era, around the 14th century CE, when the practice of Buddhism grew beyond the confines of the elite to the people of the land. The apocryphal story of this practice’s origin states that once there was a fire at the Jodo Temple that sits at the foot of Mount Daimonji. The principal deity of the temple, the Buddha known by the Sanskrit name Amitabha, leapt to the summit of the mountain to escape it and his footprints spelled out the character for great. The Buddhist saint Kobo Daishi took this sign in light and determined that it should never be extinguished, and so the sacred tradition continues year after year. Seeing it inspires the contemplation of a paradise that exists for those who pursue it in earnest.


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