The exciting night festival in a old temple near Enoshima

The peak time of Honan-e festival.
From September 11 to 13, Ryukoji Temple in Katase Town is in the period of one of the most important ceremony "Tatsunokuchi Honan-e" [龍口法難会]. Especially on the evening of September 12 at the day, many ceremonies are held and precincts of the temple is covered with full of great excitement.

The festival is based on the real historical story that Nichiren [日蓮] (a Japanese Buddhist priest and founder of Nichiren-Shu sect.) survived thanks to a miracle happened just before the execution here on the late evening of September 12, 1271.

During the end of Kamakura era, crisis of war, invasion from foreign countries, plague and starvation occurred one after another in Japan. Nichiren was concerned about this situation and proposed the solution to the government of Kamakura Shogunate as a book.
But the government misunderstood this proposal as slanderous against them, and detained Nichiren and brought him to the place to execute. Despite the formal ruling from the government was not decided, execution was forced on 2:00 am the following day.
At the very moment when the head of Nichiren tried to be cut off, a brilliant object flying from the direction of Enoshima the sacred island and jumped into the place. The executor who witnessed this incredible sight was not able to execute by unusual fear and the execution was canceled.
Nichiren was released afterwards. He had been persecuted by the government of Kamakura Shogunate 4 times, but this is the worst and last crisis.

About the festival

  • When: September 11-13
    Main events are held from 18:00(6:00 pm) on September 12.
  • Where: Ryukoji Temple in Katase Town (5 minutes walk from Enoshima Station and Shonan-Enoshima Station)
  • Admission: Free

The beginning of the night of delight

Lit up precincts of Ryukoji Temple.
On the day of the festival in Ryukoji Temple, some special pillars stands in the precincts and several buildings are illuminated. Also many food stalls selling various foods are lined up near the main gate.
Many food stalls surrounds the main gate of the temple. Special pillars stands in the precincts for the festival.

"Botamochi" rice cakes flying in the hall

Botamochi rice cakes sprinkled to worshipers
At 18:00 and mid-night 0:00, Botamochi [牡丹餅] (rice cake covered with sesame) is sprinkled from the ceiling of main hall of the temple for worshipers after the ceremony.

The event is based on the story donated rice cakes seasoned with black sesame on the way of Nichiren was taking away here.
If you eat this rice cakes, it is said that you can escape various calamity and misfortune for one year. On that day, a lot of Botamochi rice cakes are made in the temple from early in the morning.
Entrance of the main hall of Ryukoji Temple. Botamochi rice cake

The temple turns into a dance hall

Dance show in front of the main hall of Ryukoji Temple.
Around 19:00, Believers from neighboring temples of Nichiren sect come and dedicate "Mando" lanterns. They wear a uniform every each temple and show a dance to throw a "Matoi" flag with the exciting rhythm of bell and drum. It is a highlight that various people regardless age and sex demonstrate a hot dance while swaying heavy Matoi flag on each. Also dancing by a large team is unbelievably incredible as a religious event, but it is surprisingly exciting.
After showing off the dance, they go to the main hall of the temple and worship.
People who show intense movements while holding heavy Matoi flag. People of various ages from the elderly to the children will show off the dance
Both men and women will dance with heavy flags. Believers goes to the main hall to worship.
Exciting dancing by a large team. The rhythm playing a big drum further boosts the heat in the precincts.

Traditional items that make up the festival

Matoi flag and Uchiwa-daiko are both traditional Japanese items,
Musical instruments that create this traditional but enthusiastic rhythm are tools usually used in Nichiren sect and Hokke sect of Buddhism. Because most of Buddhism sects do not use such instruments, it is a unique style of this festival.
Among them "Uchiwa-daiko"[団扇太鼓] a circular drum like a "Uchiwa" (Japanese handy fan) that produce a loud sound is unusual instrument that almost never sees except in these Buddhism sects.
Playing a big Uchiwa-daiko drum. This drum sounds a very big sound than it looks.
Things like a stick swinging during the dance are a kind of traditional Japanese flag called "Matoi" [纏]. It is known for fire brigades organized during the Edo era that they used as their own markers.
Various decorations such as color and shape are given each temple. Although it seems that it is lifting or swinging lightly, but it has weight of around 20 kg in big one, it is really hard work!
To tell the truth, Matoi flag is pretty heavy. Line-up of Matoi flags
In between dances to be performed one after another, a float car decorated like a tall tree with flowers blooming may come in the venue. This is a lantern called "Mando"[万灯].
Mando lantern enter into the front garden of the main hall. Mando lanterns.

Can't stop the music and dancing of the delight

The performers gathers in front of the temple's gate and playing the music and dancing.
You can see full of open-minded smiles and pleasures in the festival.The teams who finished dancing and worshiping to the temple will return to their home. However, the teams who want to get even more excited are gathered in front of the main entrance gate of the temple and playing and dancing sometimes.
Performing in the precincts are limited in time, but there is no such limitation here. Both the performers and the audience can enjoy the enthusiasm and rhythm to their heart's content.
Here is the space filled with open-minded smiles and pleasures of local people.
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