Doll festival links

Someone emailed me with respect to my post about the Ningyou Kuyou burning doll festival back in September, asking if I had more information. As I didn’t really annotate my original post with a lot of links, I present them here, along with some new ones, for whatever it’s worth (and perhaps to help the next web traveler):… (schedule of various doll-related festivals) (nice pics) (more photos — scroll down page) (small pics)…
(a single interesting pic)… (article referencing the same festival I wrote about) (more pics) (pics) (nice pics, scroll to bottom and click)… (more pics, click on first two 10/14 links)… (tiny article)

Most (all?) of these sites are in Japanese. You can get a rough (we do mean rough!) translation via Excite Japan’s URL translation page.

And while I’m linking to photos of this festival, you can see my photos from the Ueno festival here (click on September 25, 2002).

Local Nakasendo festival

click for larger image

click for larger image

click for larger image

A few images from a local Warabi festival celebrating the history of the Nakasendo Highway which passes through here. We got there too late and so I didn’t get any photos of the folks dressed up in Edo-era costumes. I did get samba dancers, an okonomiyaki vendor, and a politician. Guess which of the three wasn’t around in the Edo era?

Dolls on the funeral pyre

click for wider image

The above photo was taken last week at the Ningyou Kuyou (mass for dead dolls) festival at the Kiyomizu Kannon Temple in Tokyo’s Ueno Park. And although I had planned in advance to take in this small modest festival, doing so the day after getting confirmation that Naoko is pregnant was significant I think. You see, this temple, which is modeled after Kyoto’s famous Kiyomizu Temple, has traditionally been a place where couples who want to have children come to pray for that result.

As best as I can tell (I admit this explanation is cobbled together from various Japanese-only sites, as there is scant info in English about this rite), those couples whose prayers for a child have been answered bring a “substitute” doll to show gratitude and to pray for the safety of their newborn child. The festival entails a small religious ceremony in which the souls of these old dolls are comforted, after which they are brought over to the furnace-cum-pyre pictured above, and set ablaze.

There appears to be quite a few of these Ningyou Kuyou festivals throughout Japan, as well as various kuyou festivals commemorating other aspects of traditional Japanese culture, including kuyou for used fude (Japanese calligraphy brushes and pens), donabe (earthenware clay pots), nurigushi (lacquered combs), and sewing needles. Most are held in various temples, but occassionally these funeral rites are performed in craft shops and guilds as well. The main thrust of these festivals seems to be that after years of care and being looked after, owners can’t bear to just unceremoniously dump these collected treasures in the trash when they begin to wear down or fall apart. From an article published in an August 1995 issue of The Sapporo Journal:

“People don’t like to get rid of these items, because they’re beautiful and have positive associations,” [Mariya Handicrafts proprietor Koichi Matsumura] explains.[…] “Kuyoh ceremonies have important practical implications,” says the jolly [Buddhist monk Kaien] Ichiki. “From a material aspect, they teach the avoidance of wastefulness, as well as care and respect for things. Emotionally, they bring peace by releasing pent-up feelings and enabling a sense of completion. Finally, the religious implications are the recognition that people, even things, are part of a cosmic oneness whose energy fills everything.”

In looking at photos from different doll-burning festivals online, it appears that for some, all manner of dolls and stuffed animals are included beyond the traditional Japanese doll. I have to admit that the idea of dolls procured at Disneyland or Hello Kitty shops going up in flames appeals to my ironic sensibilities, and is a sight I would love to one day see.