We are having very chilly days recently. In early spring, we look forward to warm spring sun but usually some very chilly days come before real warm and sunny spring. The weather of this time of season is always confusing but gradually they become Sankan Shion(three cold days and four warm days).
When there is a warm day in February or eary March, people say each other(especially in western Japan ), `real spring never comes until Omizutori ends'.
Omizutori (Shuni-e) is a ritual held at Todaiji temple in Nara. If you visit Nara, you will see a big Buddha in Todaiji. ( I myself have been to Todaiji so many times by school excursion-so I was tired of going there when I lived in Nara).
There is a hall called Nigatsu-do, which has been built in 8th century. The Omizutori ritual is held at Nigatsudo from March 01 and continues for two weeks.
There is Wiki about Omizutori:
On 1st of March midnight , eleven priests enter the Nigatsu-do hall- all the lights become off and the sound of flint echos around the hall. When it becomes successful to get the fire, the fire is kept at Nigatsudo for a year. The whole ritual which lasts for two weeks actually starts with quiet action of putting fire. They pray for general confession.
Then they carry a big torch- which is about 6 meters high to the hall way, scattering fire sparks. It is said the sparks give you state of perfect health.
You can see the video of this ceremony here:
This year, it was raining but you can see the long torch and the fire sparks.
We hear by the fallen sparks are blessing and people try to be closer to the hall. This
has been held for such a long time: actually this is 1263 time this year from the beginning. Since 752, the ritual has never been missed each year.
From the past, people kept saying, `real spring comes after Omizutori'. My mother always told me that and it seems they speak about Omizutori as the sign of spring.
I remember going to Nigatsu-do hall to see this torch with my family, and we could find a nice and close place. When they started to run the hall way of Nigatsudo with the huge torch, the fire sparkes scattered over us. My mother became panicked- and so scared, so we escaped from the crowd of people. We ended up saying seeing the torch and the festival on TV is much better. We can see the serene scenery well.
We had not visited Omizutori since then. What else can tell us, spring is here?
Ume ni uguisu, (plum blossoms and nightingale) are good too. Takenoko, (young bamboo shoot) and nanohana(field mustard) can be seen at grocery stores. I used to pick horsetails and renge flowers when I was small.
Also, it is graduation season. It is time of departure. My friend's daughter is graduationg from college and she is going to wear kimono and hakama. Her mother(my friend) called me for help with matching accessories and dressing. They found a dresser in neighborhood, so I only helped by attaching collar of juban and shortening the sleeve length to match with her furisode.
It used to be someone in the family could do such things but there are few people who can do such things any more. Professional kimono dressers are very busy this time of the season --- most people needs help with the dressing.
A lot of tears of good-bye also in this season and soon, sakura, cherry blossoms are seen gradually.
Here is the songs we hear in this season-first one is very traditional one, and the second one (by Naotaro Moriyama) is the recent most popular song related to sakura. Each year, new `sakura' songs are born-young singers make songs about departure, love and life inspired by sakura. We hope you enjoy the music and this season!