Rice Cake Lifting Matsuri:
Every year, on February 23rd, the annual “Mochi age” (餅上げ) or “rice cake lifting” event is held at Daigo-ji Temple (醍醐寺) in Kyoto City. The rice cake lifting event is the high lite of the Godairikison Ninno-e Ceremony (五大力尊仁王会) and attracts many visitors from all over Japan. This ceremony dates back to the reign of Emperor Daigo (醍醐天皇) and begun in 907. Prior to the festival, Yamabushi monks from the surrounding mountains come to Daigo-ji. They stay for a week up until the day of the festival to pray with paper charms called Mie.
Meaning of the Godairikison Ninno-e Ceremony:
There are five statues of Bosatsu (菩薩) in the Godai-dō (五大堂) hall at the upper part of Kami-Daigo. Godai (五大), refers to the five Wisdom Kings (Myōō-bu) in Buddhism. They are Fudō-Myō, Gosanze-Myō, Gundari-Myō, Daiitoku-Myō and Kongō-Yasha-Myō. On the day of the festival, the special amulet, “Godairiki-san Miei” can be obtained. Worshipers hang this special paper at the entrance of their houses or store fronts. In olden times people where lining up from the wee hours of the morning to get this special paper.
Monks are empowered by Godai-dō (五大堂), 5 great powers, including Fudō-Myō and pray for the peace, health and happiness of the country and people.
Saito Goma Fire Ceremony:
In front of the Fudō-dō (不動堂), Buddhist monks, of the Tōzan-ha (faction – 当山派) of Shūgendō (修験道), are waving a special paper called “Godairiki-san Miei (五大力さん御影)” over this fire in front of a statue of Fudō-myōō (不動明王). They are reciting sutras while some shugenja monks blow the horagai (法螺貝), an instrument made out of a large conch shell.
Rice Cake Lifting:
Huge rice cakes are lined up in front of the Kon-dō (金堂) and on the site is a podium. The Rice Cake Lifting event is what everyone has been waiting for. Thirty man and woman will compete in this power contest. The ladies will try to lift 90 kilos and the man 150 kilos. After a brief ceremony for blessing the woman take to the stage. Many TV stations have gathered to document this and the amount of cameras to get “thee” shot are innumerable. I saw on lady lifting the rice cake and also several man. If you can lift it, you get to take one of the rice cakes home. The ladies event starts an 12..pm and the man at 13.00pm.
Daigo-ji Temple Grounds:
During the rice cake lifting event the temple grounds are open free of charge. The pathway to the main hall is decorated with many colourful banners. The area in front of the pagoda is lined with stalls and buzzing with activity. many people also climb up to higher part of Daigo-ji to visit the Godai-dō (五大堂) hall on top of the mountain.
If you happen to be in Kyoto on the day of this festival, I can highly recommend the rice cake lifting event.
Here are some of my other posts on Daigo-ji: Daigo-ji Temple, A World Heritage Site in Kyoto!