Rozan-ji Setsubun 2016 in Kyoto City:
Rozan-ji Setsubun matsuri is held on February the 3rd in kyoto City. Spring is welcomed with a ritual called “Setsubun”. The Rozan-ji Setsubun matsuri “Demon Dance” is one of the most famous and unique Setsubun ceremonies in Kyoto. It was a cold gray day here in Kyoto and many people started to gather at Rozan-ji Temple. The temple is located just East of the Imperial Palace.
Chronological order of the Rozan-ji Setsubun matsuri:
At 3.00 pm in the afternoon the senior priests and musicians enter the Hon-dō (本堂) of Rozan-ji (廬山寺) starting the annual Rozan-ji Setsubun Demon Dance. After an initial prayer ceremony, involving the sacred fire, three demons enter the scene. They represent the Sandoku (三毒) or “Three poisons” in Buddhism. These three devils symbolizes greed, anger, and delusion. The red demon brandishes a torches and sword, the black demon a sledge hammer and the green demon a large ax.
They enter the Hon-dō and are trying to interrupt the ceremony. It’s then the archer comes out reading a statement before shooting the “lucky arrow” (Hamaya arrow – 破魔矢) towards the four lucky directions (northeast, southeast and southwest, northwest) and this year lucky direction south-southeast.
The demons than come out from the main hall and deliriously dance there way out into oblivion, defeated.
What comes now, is what everyone has been waiting for, the Mamemaki or “bean throwing” (豆撒き) to commence. Rozan-ji Setsubun matsuri is an unique event dating back more than a 100 years.
History of Rozan-ji:
Rozan-ji (廬山寺) was built in the year 938, on a hill called Funaokayama, situated at the northern outskirts of Kyoto by the priest Ryōgen (良源 – 912–985) better known as Ganzan Daishi (元三大師). It is one of the four temples that had an okurodo (a private Buddhist chapel of the imperial family originally located in the Imperial Palace). These temples belonged directly to the Imperial Court as does Rozan-ji today.
Rozan-ji temple’s precincts were the home of Murasaki Shikibu’s father, Fujiwara no Tametoki (藤原 為時). Murasaki Shikibu (紫 式部) is best known as the author of The “Tale of Genji”.
Rozan-ji Setsubun dating back a 1000 years:
Ganzan Daishi (元三大師), the founder of Rozan-ji, was asked by Emperor Murakami (村上天皇, 14 July 924 – 5 July 967) to pray for the safety of the Empire. According to legend, he nourished a fire at Rozan-ji for 300 days. He attracted the demons and defeated them with the fire and wearing a mask himself. A replica of the mask is displayed during the Rozan-ji Setsubun matsuri.
Conclusion: See all pictures here:
This is quite an event, a bit different from other traditional setsubun events here in Kyoto. I arrived 2 hours in advance to take up a shooting position by the main entrance. If you want to be up front by the walkway, you need to come earlier, as those spots had been taken. The staff is quite lenient and you can position yourself anywhere on the premises.