Tametomo’s ferocity drives away smallpox demon

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See woodblock image at: Ronin gallery ‘s woodblock print by Yoshitoshi

 

Chinsei Hachiro Tametomo was a celebrated historical figure of the 12th century, whose enemies exiled him to the island of Oshima off the coast of Japan. There according to legend, he repelled the demon of smallpox who was preparing to invade the island. In his response to his ferocious threats, the demon shown in the left of the woodcut is reputed to have been diminished to the size of a pea and floated out to sea. c1847-1852


Nebuta neon: ‘Tametomo’s Ferocity Drives Away the Smallpox Demon,’ a float by Renmei Kitamura and based on a print by Yoshitoshi Tsukioka, won the Mayor’s Award at last year’s festival. | AOMORI TOURISM AND CONVENTION PUBLIC INTEREST INC. ASSOCIATION

AOMORI

Fantasy goes on display at Nebuta Festival

BY ALISA YAMASAKI
 Although staying at home in the air conditioning is tempting in this sweltering weather, if you’re here for the summer you might as well embrace the heat and sweat it out with everyone else at a festival. The Nebuta Festival is held in Aomori Prefecture and lasts five days. During that time, huge floats that resemble warriors and demons are lit up like lanterns and paraded around the city. Hundreds of performers dance around the floats, which can reach five meters high. The floats will compete for prizes such as the Mayor’s Award, judged on things like construction and appearance. When accompanied by energetic music and enthusiastic dancers, these papier-mâché figures almost look as if they have been brought to life. The festival’s finale will feature a fireworks display and a parade of boats. Over its 300-year history, the festival has grown and now attracts roughly 3 million visitors — making it vital for the local economy. Special pre-paid viewing seats often sell out well in advance. Visitors are also encouraged to actively participate in the dancing for free, as long as they dress in traditional festival attire. The Nebuta Festival has even traveled overseas, with floats being displayed in countries such as Great Britain, the United States and Denmark. Although it may seem counterproductive in the humidity, the Japanese traditionally held such energetic summer festivals as a way to beat the heat. Perhaps it’s easy to forget about the sweat when you’re in awe of the festivity. Nebuta Festival takes place in Aomori on Aug. 2-7 (It starts at around 7:10 p.m.). Anyone can view the parade for free. For more information, visit www.atca.info/nebuta_en.

From Wikipedia:

History of the smallpox demon in Japan

In Japanese, the word hōsōshin (疱瘡神 (ほうそうしん)) translates literally to “smallpox god”. According to the Shoku Nihongi, smallpox was introduced into Japan in 735 into Fukuoka Prefecture from Korea. In those days, smallpox had been considered to be the result of onryō, which was a mythological spirit from Japanese folklore who is able to return to the physical world in order to seek vengeance.[1] Smallpox-related kamis include Sumiyoshi sanjin [2] In a book published in the Kansei years (1789–1801), there were lines that wrote that smallpox devils were enshrined in families which had smallpox in order to recover from smallpox.

Customs related to smallpox devils

Smallpox devils were said to be afraid of red things and also of dogs; thus people displayed various dolls that were red. In Okinawa, they tried to praise and comfort devils with sanshin, an Okinawan musical instrument and lion dances before a patient clad in red clothes. They offered flowers and burned incense in order to please smallpox demon.[3] In Okinawa, there was smallpox poetry in Ryuka; the purpose of smallpox poetry in the Ryukyu language is the glorification of the smallpox demon, or improvement from deadly infection of smallpox. [4] There is a collection of smallpox poetry including 105 poems published in 1805.[5] Traditional smallpox folk dances have been observed even in present-day Japan, including Ibaragi Prefecture andKagoshima Prefecture, for the avoidance of smallpox devils.[6][7][8]

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