June 15 is the birthday of Kobodaishi, the founder of Koyasan and Shingon Buddhism. The weather was not totally expected to be fine or even oppositely. But it was blessed by Kobodaishi's virtue and even rain waited to its fall. Not only whole town but worshippers all over Japan get together at Koyasan and celebrate Kobodaishi's birthday in many ways.
People from Kagawa, one of the 4 prefectures in Shikoku Island where Kobodaishi was born and later opened his pilgrimage route, have participate in the parade in their pilgrimage costume. How well organized their beautiful dancing are!
Here are just a part of the floats, dancers in Koyasan and high school students there. I didn't expect high school boys and girls danced so active and cheerfully.
Young priests also participate in the parade and spread pieces of paper called "sangue" whose shape is a lotus petal*. Sangue is widely given in the Buddhist services or ceremonies to hold some memorial services for Buddha or the Saint like Kobodaishi. People who get these are grateful to Buddha for his virtue.
MISAISHOKO is originally the special rites to chant and praise the sutra written by Kobo Daishi,
"KONKOMYOSAISHO-OHGYO" to pray for the prosperity of the country and the imperial messenger participate the rites. Later its form has changed into question and answer and last 2 days.
After completing this, 2 senior priests can make their way to get the special title called "JOGO."
Mandokuyo-e （Candle Festival)
night on August 13, the approaches to Okunoin and the lantern hall are decorated with numerous candle lights handed to visitors by local participants of boy scouts, girl scouts and sports teams.
It is called “Candle Festival”, a kind of Bon Festival. Bon Festival is a Buddhist event occurring from the 13th to 16th of August to hold a memorial service to the spirits of ancestors.
The spirits of the dead are said to return at this time and fires are lit so the spirits do not lose their way, and lanterns are lit inside homes too. At home, the Buddhist family altars are tidied up and vegetables and fruit are set out as offerings.
In some places, Bon dancing is held to comfort the spirits.Anyway, visitors can also think about their ancestors and offer candles along the path. And whole area looks very mysterious and beautiful.
This year, the newspaper said about 30,000 people joined this candle festival.
( 11pm on 14th February ~ 11am on 15th February) at Kongobuji
Mostly the chanting sounds solemnly. And
a wide variety of chanting attract visitors. The beautiful harmony
echoes through the huge room. This memorial ceremony consists of four
parts: Nehan, Rakan, Yuiseki, and Shari.
“JORAKU-E” is one of the Buddhist Memorial Services held on 14 th and 15 th February every year. In order to commemorate Shakyamuni Buddha, a founder of Buddhism, who entered NIRVANA on 15 th February, Buddhist monks gather and chant to express their gratitude to him.
“JO” means “ever-lasting”, and “RAKU” means “peace and with no pains”
The “JORAKU-E” is a liturgical chanting consists of four divisions.
First part is called “Nehan-ko”. Nehan means NIRVANA. They express the feeling how they have adored Buddha, and how deep sorrow they are in after the loss of Buddha.
Second part is called “Rakan-ko”. Sixteen Arhats spread the precious teachings and words of Buddha.
Third part is called “Yuiseki-ko”. Remembering the sacred sites where Buddha had visited, they chant.
Last part is called “Shari-ko”. Express the feeling that they venerate Buddha’s ashes.
22:00 on 14 th Feb.: Monks are coming inside Kongobu-ji one after another. They have “Udon Noodle” before the long chanting to start. The noodle is also served to visitors for free. Go to the Kongobu-ji kitchen by 22:30. After that, wait in a room by the kitchen. Better to keep your seat by the sunken hearth.
23:00 : Gathering in a main hall of Kongobu-ji, nearly one hundred student monks wait for o-doshi-sama (officiating monk) to come. O-doshi-sama leads the chanting.
1:00 on 15 th Feb.: JORAKU-E starts with “Nehan-ko” ~ “Rakan-ko”
6:00 : Short break for breakfast. (The meal is also served to visitors for free.)
7:00 : JORAKU-E starts again with “Yuiseki-ko” ~ “Shari-ko”
11:00 : JORAKU-E is over.
Joraku-E is held at O-hiroma (the main hall) in Kongobuji on the night of February 14th. It starts at 11pm. The sound of the bell at Daito tells the time to start. Gathering in the O-hiroma in Kongobuji, nearly one hundred Buddhist monks keep on chanting all night long until 11am the next morning.