Pongal Festival » Pongal in Japan

Japan - Tori no Ichi

Tori no Ichi is a famous annual festival in November on the day of the Tori (Rooster) in Chinese calendar and this event has continued to today since the Edo period. Tori no Ichi is held at Temple of Tori (Juzaisan Chokoku-ji) in Asakusa, Tokyo or various shrines of Washi (Eagle) and many people come to there to pray for a health, good fortune and good business. A number of Shinto shrines around the country hold a lively "festival of the rooster". These festivals, which last throughout the night, are held on the days of the rooster in November.

The Date

In the old Japanese calendar, modeled after the Chinese system, the years, days, and hours are represented by a repeating cycle of 12 animals: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and boar. For example, 1999 was the year of the rabbit. This means that 2000 is the year of the dragon, the next animal in the cycle.

The Origin

The origin of "Tori-no-Ichi" festivals is related to the Japanese mythology of the Ameno-Hiwashino-Mikoto and the Yamato-Takeruno-Mikoto. Both are worshiped as god and on this day, the street is bustling by worshipers that celebrate it all day long. People give thanks to the divine favor, and pray for both good fortune and good news in future and ask the god to keep them out of harm's way. Rake stalls are put in the yard of the shrines and lucky rakes are sold and decorated with colorful symbols of good fortune, believed to bring wealth to the purchasers.

Celebration

The purpose of these festivals, which have been held since the Edo period (1603-1868), is to pray for abundant harvests and prosperous sales. People also come to buy colorfully decorated kumade, or rakes, from the many vendors who set up stalls in and around the shrine. The biggest festival is held at the Otori Shrine in Asakusa, Tokyo, where some 200 stalls are set up and attracts tens of thousands of visitors every year.

The Significance of Selling Rakes

They are used to "rake in" good fortune. The kumade come in a variety of sizes and are decorated with such good-luck items as masks, replicas of gold coins, and miniature treasure ships and chests. Some shop owners pray for greater prosperity by buying a slightly bigger kumade each year. Some shops with a long history have a kumade-buying tradition that goes back many generations.

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