Tuesday, 25 August 2009

a festival for children

Jizo-bon festival, Kyoto

I live in central Kyoto surrounded by old wooden houses. If you ever walk in Kyoto city, you might have noticed the little shrines here and there on the street. They are shrines for Jizo and each community has own shrine. Jizo is a guardian of travellers and people, especially children.

Every 24th of the month is the day for Jizo and around the 24th of August many communities have a festival(Jizo-bon 地蔵盆) for the neighbourhood children. The number of children in my area has decreased and nowadays grandchildren who don’t live in the neighbourhood are allowed to join the festival.

What happens at the festival varies form place to place. Where I live the Jizo statue, usually displayed in the small shrine on the street, is displayed in one of the neighbourhood homes, a different one each year, and while a parish monk visits and chants the sutra in front of Jizo the children sit in a circle holding a big rosary that they pass through their hands because they are too young to read the sutra. In my home town the festival is held at a local temple and involves traditional bon-dancing (bon-odori 盆踊り) and some stalls selling food and the traditional game of catching goldfish with a paper scoop.

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