OUTLINE OF OOMOTO 16
16. FESTIVALS AND RITES OF OOMOTO
The festival and rites of Oomoto, spread throughout the year, are numerous as well as various. The first is the new years festival and the last that of the birthday of the Nao, which falls on December 16. Among them, the Setsubun festival, the Miroku festival the Zuisei anniversary and that of the Oomoto founding are most essential.
Setsubun Festival of Oomoto is now one of the greatest features of the annual events of Ayabe. The word Setsubun means the' change' of season - it marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring. It is the eve of 'Risshun', or the first official day of spring. The Japanese celebrate it throughout the land in all traditional families, because they are held with the belief in folklore rite of exorcism, and thus they go into the new season or 'New year'.
In Oomoto this festival has a serious significant, because just on the day of Risshun in 1892, God manifested himself through Nao, - In order to announce that 'the time for God's rule has returned' and that after the reconstruction of the world, the human beings would enter the New Age of Maitreya. Therefore, the Setsubun is one of the most important events of the year in Oomoto for purifying all our spirits.
This rite is carried out in two parts: one is the purification of the universe and it will be conducted from 7.00PM to 8.30PM of the 4th. The other is the purification of the individual persons, which will continue till the aurora of the 5th. The purification of the individual persons is fulfilled Hitogata.
Hitogata is literary 'man figure' made of a slip of Japanese paper in kimono form. Every participator writes his name, age and address on it. The hitogata with these three items written by millions of people are collected in masses to Oomoto headquarters in Ayabe. There is held the ceremony and prayers for the purification from sin for all people joined by hitogata. In the course of praying words of thousands of Oomoto devotees throughout the night, the masses of hitogata go from the alter to 200 hundred servers. They recite the persons name one by one from the hitogata and put them in one after another in unglazed earthenware pots. One hundred women servers, called 'seoritsuhime', carry the pots away to the Wachi River in procession, where they throw the hitogata from the bridge down to the river. 'Then shall no sin and offence remain unpurged' says the old liturgy.
After the ritual, the bean-scattering ceremony is observed. So it is just before day break when crowding Oomoto believers complete to catch hold of as many beans as possible. They are raw, unlike those parched in other places.
On the first day the Supplication Rite for Good Rice Crop is observed, which in fact tells how much importance is attached to agriculture in the Oomoto doctrine.
The Miroku Festival dates from the third day of the third month of the third year of Show period (1928), when Onisaburo reached the age of fifty-six years and seven months. This sequence of the same numerals has an esoteric meaning in Oomoto numerology, but we shall not dwell on it here. March third has been one of the five annual festivities of Japan, that is, the Doll's Festival. In the year 1968, it was celebrated on April 7, when cherry blossoms were in full bloom; on that same day the spring anniversary service of the Oomoto followers ancestors was held. In short, this may well be said to be the Spring Festival of Oomoto.
The Zuisei Festival, anniversary of that of Onisaburo, is celebrated every year on the seventh of August at Bansho-den Sanctuary in Kameoka, Onisaburo's birthday place. The rite is no more particular than the usual one, but in the evening the Uta Festival, or Poem Festival, is observed on the 6th of August. This is rather a unique performance. An elegant and solemn dance with divine maidens. After the girls dancers move away like antique shadows, the better poems sent in especially for the occasion begin to be recited loudly by eight readers with accompaniment of Yakumo-koto and yumidaiko (a bow drum).
Early next morning, visitors staying over night (8th of August) will make a pilgrimage up Mt. Takakuma, some three miles to the southwest. Descending the mountain they will come to Zuisen-en, the old site of Onisaboru's ancestors, where a short ceremony is conducted. Coming back, in the afternoon, they will attend the anniversary of Oomoto's deceased religious teachers.
The Japanese, whose ancestors were largely farmers, have never ceased to hold their harvest festivals, even today, as has been the custom of other races throughout the world. The festival of Oomoto Nao Deguchi, commemorating the ascension of the prophet, is held on the first Sunday of November. On the same day, the annual autumn festival of the Oomoto follower’s ancestors and the harvest thanksgiving are also conducted. After the ceremony of the Chosei-den sanctuary all participates will make the pilgrimage to Ten Nodaira graveyard, to attend the memorial service for Nao Deguchi's tomb and that of Saino-sha.
When the service is over, those who have relative’s graves in the adjoining cemeteries will pay their consoling visit.
But one of the interesting as well as peculiar, of the kind may be the Zamenhofa Festo, which is the Zamenhof anniversary, conducted by the E.P.A. This is the celebration of the birth of Dr. Ludovic Lazarus Zemenhof (r.1859-1917), the great polish genius who invented Esperanto, the international auxiliary language.
Oomoto followers have there own alter at their homes and have services in the morning and evening and Tsukinami-sai, Monthly rite, once a month, when friends will gather together. They do not go to church on Sundays like Christians, only monthly services or festivals to the local branches.