2.1 Topography

The little country town of Omihachiman (Fig.6) lies at the southern foot of the mountains running northward to form a peninsula jutting into Lake Bina. The town ist the commercial and administrative centre of the region studied. The settlement as a whole lies in a U-shape around the southern extension of the hills. The central shrine of the complex, the Himure-Hachiman shrine (Himure hachimangu) lies at the foot of the hills (Z). The town falls into two distinct settlements. The arms of the U are made of several separate viilages (A-L) [9], while the inner part consists of the old-fashioned town centre in classical style. This is criss-crossed by a rectangular network of roads. It has other features that are reminders of mediaeval times: tall, massive walls here and there, a large moat surrounding the shrine etc. Some of the separate village [10] constitute the original settlement which developed into a town under Toyotomi Hidetsugu at the end of the 16th century.

2.2 History

Three >histories< are related concerning the foundation of Omihachiman: the history of the town, and those of the shrine and the villages. [11]

The History of the town : In 1585 Toyotomi Hidetsugu, the son of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the second great general and successor of Oda Nobunaga, received a considerable land property from his father. It amounted to the size of about 12 minimal daimiates (20 000 koku). After Oda Nobunaga was killed, Hideyoshi immediately assumed power and moved to Osaka where he built the Ishiyama-castle on the ruins of the Buddhist fortification which Nobunaga had destroyed. The castle of Oda Nobunaga at Azuchi became obsolete. This was probably the reason why Hideyoshi placed his son in this important region. Hidetsugu built himself a castle on Mount Hachiman at the south of Mt. Kyakuyoku (248 m) and in 1586 founded the town at the foot of his castle. Since his father was the largest landowner in Japan (ca. 2 million koku) he could afford some luxury, spending a lot on wooden constructions and waterworks. With the destruction of Odahara-castle in 1590 the political situation changed considerably and in 1595 Hidetsugu commited suicide. His castle was destroyed. The town developed commercially and later its merchants (= mi-shônin) became well know throughout Japan.

The history of the shrine : The town-district called Miyauchicho includes the Himure-hachiman-shrine. According to the shrine tradition there was an upper and a lower shrine. [12] When Hidetsugu built his castle, the upper shrine was moved to its present site. The main building of the Himure-Hachiman precinct is devoted to Hachiman. [13] Obviously this originated by fusion with the ancient Himure shrine of secondary importance (see below) for the sake of continuity. Not anly this: another ancient shrine is in the same precinct, namely the Oshima-shrine, which is mentioned in texts of the 6th century (see below). The shrine tradition calls it jinushi-gami, [14] >the god who owns a particular territory< or ubusunagami , [15] >the god who designates the original place<. This shrine mas moved here from the village Utsuro. These data show clearly that the foundation of a town did not simply implant an exterior deity into a new and gorgeous shrine-complex, but tried to respect (and use) continuity by integrating ancient local shrines into the precinct.

Village history : From early times this region - Omi was its ancient name - was one of the richest rice-chambers of early urban centres in Nara and Kyoto. Early history therefore is characterized by growing of control over farming land. When the jorisei-system [16] was established we hear of '13 or 14 villages' mentioned in relation with certain square measures (cho, tsubo). Later, when new village communities (go-sei) were formed, Oshima, Shinoda, Funaki, Kirihara and Nibo are mentioned. Funaki is part of the town today. At those times Oshimajinja, Okitsushimajinja and Shinodajinja (see Egenter 1982) were registered as official shrines (shikinaisha [17]). A shrine named Himurejinja is also mentioned but does not belong to this class of state-shrines. The period after Heian is characterised by the formation of numerous private properties (shoen) in relation to aristocratic family lines, shrines and temples. Thus the land of Himure-manor (Himuresho) appears under the administration of Buddhistic Hachijo-temple. Beginning with the 13th century many new settlers moved into the region and are registered in the Oshima- and Okitsushimashrines. Pressure rises against the private estates: many shrine- and templechronicles record such conflicts. At the beginning of the 16th century the Sasaki-family dominated the region from the castle in Okayama near the Kurohashi-river. Massive militarisation of the area began with the construction by Oda Nobunaga of a castle and fortified town in Azuchi between 1576 and 1579. What this militarisation meant we can guess from the size of the armies of those times. In 1568 Nobunaga went to Kyoto with an army of 30'000 , and in 1573 to Osaka with a force of 60'000 to besiege Ishiyama, the fortress of the Hojo sect.

To conclude, and particularly important here: the three 'histories' offer clues of feudalistic control over farming villages by means of religion: ancient village shrines are integrated into newly formed centralized cult-systems.

2.3 The >fire-festivals< of Omihachiman

Today the surrounding villages and the urban centre have different cult festivals. In mid-March the town districts proper (machi or cho) hold a celebration with New Year huts (sagicho) [18] in the central role; one month later the surrounding villages organize a cult torch festival (taimatsu-matsuri) of really gigantic proportions. The separation clearly indicates an accumulation. The sagicho-festival, with bamboo-huts being built by the central districts and brought to the central shrine where they are burnt, is related to the Chinese New Year festival and as a cult-type is common at the classical court. On the contrary, the torches [19] closely related to reed must have their traditional roots in region, which was one of the great reedfields mentioned in the ancient Japanese texts, and their sacred character as 'seats of gods' seems to allude to the earliest stratum of Japanese myths where we hear of deities counted as piliars (mi-hashira) and some of them 'born of something that grows like reed.' [20]

In Japanese folklore studies this taimatsu-festival is well known as one of the biggest of its kind. [21] But it is generaliy classified among the widespread category of fire festivals (hi-matsuri), in which the fire counts as an >element< in a religious or mythological sense. But in this way the essential meaning is lost. Japanese folklore studies neither perceived the extent of the traditions still existing in the 100 villages around the town nor the enormous variety of semantic and symbolic forms embodied in these technically primitive buildings. From this variety of forms it becomes evident that the objects, not the fire, form the basic stratus of this tradition.

And most important: if the festival of Omihachiman is seen in the frame of architectural and spatial analysis within the regional traditions, its complex structure can be understood in terms of its essential features and their motifs. Its semantic buildings and their spatial relations can show us how, in the founding of higher grade settlements (town), pre-existing elements (villages) are blended into harmonious unity by way of local cult practices. The festival becomes a traditional document, an annual revival of an event which occurred centuries ago: the foundatian of a town.

2.4 The festival of sacred torches

The whole festival of Omihachiman (ie. taken together with the village festivals) is essentially based on the same pattern of the village- and centre festival (uchimatsuri-goshamatsuri) mentioned in the introduction (Fig, 7). For a period of 2 weeks the villages around the town centre carry out their own individual festivals uchimatsuri, which are all of similar character (lower part of table). The cycle then closes with a joint celebration before the central shrine (upper part of table), its arrangenents expressing a hierarchical order. The course of the ritual is most clearly related to the groupings of the villages into upper (A-J) and lower (K-N) sections [22] (see also Fig. 9A: 0 = upper, U = lower section).

2.5 Construction of semantic buildings (sacred torches) in front of central shrine

This division is reflected in the cult signs. Two villages are representative of each group, each builds a fixed cult sign near the side entrance to the shrine (Fig. 8, n and r). Around each of these signs are grouped the tall mobile pillars, previously constructed in the villages and then set up at the central shrine. Nowadays there is some preference for bringing the material to the central shrine and building then there instead of carrying the long pillars through the narrow lanes. The original habit of carrying the signs is still observed for a small remnant of cult objects. These form part of the evening procession of upper and lower villages to the shrine and burn as they are carried or dragged.

On the morning of the festival the forecourt of the central shrine is transformed into a regular building site. The positions of the constructions are traditionally determined (Fig, 8). The two fixed cult signs ôtaimatsu (Fig, 10) are of similar basic form but differ in their accessories (terminal tuft, gohei). Below, a square-based central support of wooden poles supports a round roof-structure, about 8 m wide. This roof is covered with a thin layer af reed stalks, 4 m long and bearing ears at the periphery. On top, the supporting frame carries a short bush of sasa bamboo and, in the centre a tall bamboo pole covered below by a bunch of bamboo twigs but bearing at its free upper end a sacred sign (gohei) and a fir twig. In both cult signs the anterior side is emphasized by one or two reed bundles laid at its foot. The cult rope is wound around twice [23] and its knot encloses a forwardly directed bundle. This specific arrangement of long and short bundles is presumably derived from the rope ends and will be encountered again as a finishing touch to the front of the capital wreath in the tall pillar. Because of its inverted position (and not because the whole pillar is a phallic symbol! See my concept of structural symbolism), it probably came to be seen there as a symbol of the male sex organ (otoko no sei). On the other hand, in the fixed sign this contrasting double bundle bears the white cult sign (gohei): a larger bundle over the short one symbolizes the year and twelve small gohei in the long bundle represent the 12 months (junitsuki). The sacred symbol is built time, a primitive calendar.

The construction and form of the mobile type, called kasa-taimatsu, 'umbrella-torch' or hiraki-taimatsu, 'torch open at the upper end', called 'tall pillars' in our study, is shown in Fig.11. With its reed part lifted high on the top and reversed it is a secondary type, obviously developed for processions and movements to central shrines. It is interesting to watch the construction of the capital of this tall type. Like a blossom unfolding from its bud, the reed cylinder, fixed to the jacked-up end of the column, first opens up into a flower-like shape and then widens as the stalks fan out to form the wreath of rays. No wonder that here too the capital, as the sun-wheel (nichirin), has a cosmic symbolic meaning.

Besides the tall pillars that are nowadays built before the shrine, other cult objects are still built in the vilIages and then brought to the shrine in flames (Fig.12). The >bottle-shaped cult torches< (tokuri- taimatsu, Fig.12 C) of one of the >lower< villages (Kitanosho) probably owe their shape mainly to the fact that they have to be carried, burning, over considerable distances. In this condition they are referred to as dragons (tatsu). During transport the fire is controlled in a remarkable manner, that is to say, the amount of fire breathed by this dragon is under tight control. Increase of flames is induced by loosening the bindings; if the fire becomes too dangerous it is damped down with water ladled from buckets.

The same thing happens with another kind, which is also dragged aflame to the central shrine, but this time by ropes (Fig.12 B). They are actually reed columns of a type found in one place only (Azuchi) and, apart from the supporting pole, are made entirely of reeds, this latter circumstance is probably connected with the fact that this village, like Azuchi, still has common ownership of a lakeside strip and can thus easily obtain the material needed for the reed columns. The pattern is certainly original and speaks in favour ot the primary nature of material homogeneity in this region, and particularly that of reed construction. Fig.12 D shows view and section of a children's torch. These too are sacred and therefore provided with a white paper-sign (gohei) at the top. They are made by the male representatives of ujiko-houses for their sons of certain age, are set up in front of the entrance door and are brought to the shrine precinct in the afternoon when they are set on fire and left to burn as a kind of sacrifice to the deity.

The orders of precedence observed at the fire festival are also noteworthy. The festival opens with the arrival at the festival place of the cult groups from north and south. Here, in proportion to the size of the festival, there is an enormous development of that element common to all theses festivals of the region when it comes to the moment of kindling the torches: the dynamic aspect, the procession of the cult officiants to the shrine. Carried on big frames by crowds of men, huge drums are beaten with thick sticks and, combined, produce a thundering sound that powerfully impresses the many onlookers. A certain southern village brings the initial fire (moto no hi, Fig. 9 B, Nr. 1) by which the great torches are set ablaze, one after the other, in strict order of precedence. While they are burning, the torches of the types shown in Fig. 11 are brought to the innermost precinct of the central shrine and left to burn Fig. 9 B, Nr. 2-5). The resulting sea of fire immediately engulfs the tectonic structures, distorting and consuming them.

In its flickering light everything around takes on an uncertain aspect and this, with the drumming, that acts as an acoustic barrier against the outside world, has the effect of fettering one to the scene of these dramatic events. Everything combines to create an inescapable vision of disintegration and destruction. If it is considered that in such cult signs the construction was originally the main thing, it is astounding to witness how they can be so rapidly reassessed as fit only for destruction. But it is precisely at a festival of such gigantic dimensions as this that one grasps the possiblity of such a reassessment. In early times the building of an unusual and significant form was probably a big annual event in a surrounding where otherwise nothing much happened. The nocturnal fire introduced a diversion with the qualities of a spectacular >show<, particularly in its dramatic conflict with the form. This proved to be stronger than the emotional investment in the creation of the form.

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