• Beniko

15. Mugon Mairi - Unspoken Prayer


After the completion of Yamaboko Junko (山鉾巡行, the procession of the first half GION festival), three Mikoshi (神輿, portable shrines) are sent from Yasaka shrine (八坂神社) to Otabisho (御旅所, special lot for Mikoshi) located at the corner of the Shijo (四条) and the Teramachi (寺町) streets for one week until July 24. There's an old saying that your prayer will be answered if you make seven round-trips from Yasaka shrine to Otabisho within the week, provided that you never speak with anyone during the trips. This is what is called Mugon Mairi (無言詣り, Unspoken Prayers).

The Mugon Mairi starts by visiting Yasaka shrine, next Otabisho, and then back and forth seven times in one night. Some people nowadays say that "a round trip has to be repeated for seven successive days", but I believe that “seven round trips only in one night” is correct.

The rule of Mugon Mairi is strict, and if you speak with someone during the process, you have to do it again from scratch. I even cannot imagine how difficult it could be.

As for myself, I have never tried it. However, I love the description about it in the novel “Koto (古都, The Old Capital)” by a Nobel laureate, Kawabata Yasunari (川端康成), at which Naeko, the older sister of the twins separated from her younger sister, makes her prayer at Otabisho in the night of GION festival.

One night I visited Otabisho in private and found my favorite Oneisan (お姉さん, elder Geiko) in her silent prayer. I immediately secreted myself behind and fortunately Oneisan didn’t recognize me. She walked away to Shijo Ohashi bridge (四条大橋) without knowing I was there. Now that several decades have passed, I still remember her beautiful profile, so serene and sincere. Every time I hear Gion Bayashi (祇園囃子, Gion festival music), I cannot help remembering the Oniesan at that night. I wonder how she is doing now...

Thanks a lot, see you soon.

Beniko

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