Osaka’s historical roots is as a port city of trade, fishermen and merchants. One of the biggest festivals in honor of the patron deity of commerce, luck and fishing, Ebisu, is held annually on January 10 in the streets of Osaka with a giant parade and ritual activity as the locals wish for business success and prosperity in the New Year.
My chiropractor showed me his fukusasa, bamboo branches with leaves that bring happiness and success, that had various talismans on it, hanging in his office. He made a trip to Imamiya Ebisu Shinto Shrine in Minami, Osaka the day prior to return it, pray and get a fresh one for the new year.
The massive Hoe-Kago Gyoretsu Parade has been held for the past 300 years. It wasn’t far from my home, so I ventured out in the coldest morning so far in a rather mild winter, for the 10 a.m. starting at the Ebisu Bridge in the Dontonburi area. The parade carrying “treasure cages” of geisha, miko, beauties and others, as well as a float of a giant fish, were paraded through the streets, ending up at the shrine just south of Namba Station in South Osaka.
A stage featured official ceremonies as well as a performance of Japanese traditional Bunraku puppets. The loud chanting of Hoe-Kago along with traditional Japanese music during the entire parade was down right hypnotic, seriously putting you in a joyous trance of unity with others.
What I loved about this festival was that people actively participate in it. It’s not about just passively consuming or watching something. People receive a branch of Moso bamboo. Since ancient times, bamboo has kept close ties with the lives of Japanese people. Folklore reveals that Kaguya, the Moon Princess of Taketori Monogatari, was born from bamboo.
But bamboo also brings personal meaning to the Japanese people to persevere in the face of suffering, as the leaves remain lush green in winter, symbolizing the infinite life of the bamboo forest, its vigorous reproductive power.
The Shinto faith is deeply connected to nature. Connecting people to nature and to feel bamboo’s strong life force and mystery. The mystery which always continues to produce “life” and continue “life,” and that we are connected to nature and life is constantly revitalized. As are we!
After witnessing this huge festival, walking around for four hours and absorbing the wonderful happiness and ritual, I had some sobayaki at a food stall, yaiya, then later some fresh black sesame and matcha mochi. Walking home I indeed felt renewed and prosperous. It’s going to be a great year!
Happy New Year!
Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu!!!