The Tondo Festival occurs in early January around Koshogatsu, the lunar new year. For the New Year most homes and businesses in Japan hang a Shimekazari above the door. Shimekazari are sacred ropes braided from rice straw, and to them are attached various good luck charms, most commonly an orange. The shimekazari wards off evil spirits and invites the Kami to enter.
At Tondo, a huge bonfire is made and into it are placed the shimekazari and other new year ornaments. The fire is lit by someone born in the same animal year, at this Tondo it was a 12 year old boy, and as the flames and smoke rise in the sky the people pray for health and blessing for the coming year. As the fire dies down a little, children who have been practising their calligraphy for the new year place examples onto the fire. If they rise into the air with the heat, it indicates success for that child for the new year.
While all this is going on, the people are served a variety of foods including Tonjiru, a really tasty stew made from pork, taro, and daikon, as well as Mochi, a glutenous rice cake that is a traditional new year food. Lengths of green bamboo are filled with sake and placed in the coals to warm, and then served to everyone.
Monday, January 09, 2006
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