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Monday, February 06, 2006

Demon Masks

節分 - 鬼の仮面

On Friday night all over Japan all the oni (demons) came out! In the cities they mostly appear at Setsubun celebrations in well known shrines and temples - Setsubun being the last day of winter in the traditional Japanese lunar calender, and on which day a bean-scattering ceremony takes place to drive out the oni and attract good fortune.

The first 2 photos show oni that appeared at the famous Yasaka Shrine in Gion, Kyoto. If I was a little kid viewing the oni from the safety of the crowd, I would not be too frightened: more entertained. They are hardly terrifying masks - in fact they look quite jolly.

Setsubun oni (devil) mask.
Setsubun oni (devil) mask.

The photo below shows one of our local oni. This is a bit scarier, and in the villages the oni prowl around in a group visiting houses that have kids. Having a group of these really scary demons try and enter your house does provoke genuine terror in the younger kids.

Setsubun oni (devil) mask In Japanese cities, so many of the traditions and rituals have become mere entertainment, having lost their meaning. I know its a cliche, but in the remoter parts of Japan traditions and customs are still lived as they have been for ages, and still evoke the emotions that spawned them.

"Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!"
("Devils out! Good luck in!")

Original Japanese Devil Masks from GoodsFromJapan

Omote Kagura Museum in Oda Village

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