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49. Tokaebisu Festival

Happy New Year, everybody!

After the New Year's Shigyoshiki (始業式, a ceremony for commencement of the new business season, or a semester), Tokaebisu (十日えびす, a festival held in honor of Ebisu in January) begins. The Ebisu festival in January is called Tokaebisu, whereas the one in October is called Hatsukaebisu (二十日えびす), and the Tokaebisu is more renowned. During the festival period, namely from January 8 to 12, Kyoto Ebisu shrine (京都えびす神社) gets very busy and crowded with visitors seeking prosperity by purchasing this year's Fukuzasa (福笹, lucky bamboo branch).

They say January 10th is the birthday of Ebisu (the god of fortune). When I was a child, still in the New Year's mood, I enjoyed going to the Ebisu festival with Otoshidam (お年玉, money given to children during the New Year's as gifts) in my hand.

A famous attraction of the festival is Maiko (舞妓) giving Fukuzasa to purchasers. When I was a Maiko, I performed the role too. Another famous event of the festival is Hoekago (宝恵かご, decorated palanquin) procession by actresses impersonating Geiko (芸妓). According to my Onesan (お姉さん, mentor Geiko), real Geiko were in Hoekago in the old days instead of actresses today.

The Hoekago is equipped with a lantern with Geiko's name on it. The bearers chant "Hoekago, Hoi!" and the procession makes a round from one Ochaya (お茶屋, tea house) to another delivering happiness. The interesting thing is the difference among the regions. At the Ebisu festival in Osaka, real Geiko are still performing the role. I remember Oneisan said it is very pity that the role is taken over by actresses in Kyoto.

Here's a funny tradition about the festival. When you leave the shrine, you have to go to the back of the main hall and knock the wall, then leave from the back gate. This is to make sure if Ebisu really listen to your prayer, just because Ebisu's hearing is said to be poor.

The traditional chant of "Shobai Hanjo de sasa motte koi (商売繁盛で笹持って来い)" always makes me excited.

Thank you very much. Talk to you later.






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