D22: Honmonji Oeshiki – the food!

On Wednesday night, we participated in the biggest Oeshiki festival in all of Japan.  Oeshiki commemorates the death of Nichiren, the founder of Nichiren Buddhism, one of the largest sects of Buddhism in Japan.  Nichiren Buddhism is considered one of the only types of Buddhism to originate in Japan (in other words, unlike Zen or Pure Land, etc., it was not influenced by Buddhist movements in China or other nations), and it has inspired and influenced many Buddhist and other religious movements since then, including many of Japan’s New Religious Movements.

Nichiren founded the Honmonji Temple in Ikegami, and it is also where, on October 13, 1282, he passed away.  It is said that the night he died, cherry blossoms grew and bloomed – something that typically only happens in the spring.  So each year, on the anniversary of his death, all over the country people commemorate his life by carrying huge mando and matoi (“fireman’s standards of the Edo period” – you’ll see pictures in the parade post!)The celebration at Honmonji in Ikegami is the largest, since it is where Nichiren died, and it attracts over 300,000 people each year.

“Mando” means “10,000 lanterns,” and they are huge lantern structures, several feet high [UPDATE: Don thinks I should clarify: “several” feet is an understatement, they are about 12-14 feet high], often shaped like elaborate, many-storied temples, with smaller lanterns hanging off the main temple-lantern, and at the top of it all, an umbrella-like structure from which hang several garlands of paper cherry blossoms. Thousands of people participate in the parade, and hundreds of thousands come out to watch – but more about that in the parade post!

For this post, the focus is on the FOOD – there were over 700 food stalls lining the streets branching off from the parade route.

Don took all the photos at the festival, and I’m just taking his captions from the photos he posted on Facebook.  So essentially, Don is the guest blogger for this post.  All the more to encourage him to take over the blog once I leave Japan….

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