annual event


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January

1st Many people flock to temples and shrines, some dressed in kimono, for the first worship of the year. According to newspaper reports, nearly 88 million people in Japan or two-thirds of the total population visited temples or shrines during the first three days of 1999. On the top of the list is always Meiji Shrine in Tokyo erected in dedication to Emperor Meiji (1852-1912) and it draws roughly 3.4 million. Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine attracts 2 million visitors during the first three days, usually ranking eighth of the top-ten list. Trains run all-night on New Year's Eve for those worshipers. In Kamakura, cars are not allowed to go inside the city during those three days. For walkers, it may be a good chance to visit other shrines and temples that are not much crowded.
4th Chona Hajime {pronounced cho-nah-hah-gee-meh} Ritual at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine
Chona means an adz and hajime "first use of the year". In commemoration of the ritual Yoritomo Minamoto, the founder of the Kamakura Shogunate, performed at the time he inaugurated this shrine, the ceremony takes place on this day at 1:00 p.m. .
5th Joma Shinji {joe-mah shin-gee} at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine
Joma means "keep evil spirits away" and shinji "Shinto ritual". Archers shoot arrows, at a target 27 meters away, on whichthe letter oni or devil is marked. By hitting the target, they wish the devil be exorcised.
10th Ebisu {eh-bee-soo} Festival at Hongakuji
Ebisu, one of the Seven Deities of Good Fortune, is the Deity of Commerce. Traditionally, January 10 is the day for Ebisu. The Ebisu Festival can be observed at all the shrines sacred to the deity.
13th Gomataki Kuyo {go-mah-tah-key koo-yoh} or Holy Fire Rite for Invocation at Kokuzo-do located near Joju-in
Goma is Homa in Sanskrit, a holy fire for invocation.
15th Sagicho {sah-ghe-cho} Ritual at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine
Gicho is a stick used by ancient people for hockey-like game and sa means three. Today, Sagicho means a sort of fire festival. People bring the New Year decorations and talismans, made of pines, sacred straw festoon etc. to the Shrine and the Shrine burn them with sacred fire after purification rituals. Religious people never throw away those sacred objects in awe of the divine wrath.
16th Enma (Yama)'s Fete at En'noji
This is the first fete-day for Yama. By praying to Enma, the ruling judge in the netherworld, worshipers believe the Enma give divine favors to the wandering souls.
22nd Taishiko {tye-she-koh} Festival at Hokaiji Temple
Festival for carpenters, scaffolding men and those who are engaged in construction jobs. Taishi means a crown prince and in this particular case, Prince Shotoku (574-622), who contributed to the development of Buddhism in Japan and founded a number of temples.
25th Fude Kuyo {foo-deh koo-yoh} at Egara Tenjin Shrine
A memorial service in honor of used writing tools such as brush-pen, pencil, etc. Fude means a writing brush and Kuyo a memorial service. All Tenjin shrines are dedicated to the memory of Sugawara Michizane (845-903), a court noble and scholar. After his death, he was divinized as the deity of learning. Known also as an excellent calligrapher, Egara Tenjin holds this Fude Kuyo in his commemoration.

February

3rd Setsubun {seh-tsu-boon} Festival at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu and other shrines and temples
On the last day of calendar winter, which is called Setsubun, this festival takes place at popular shrines and temples, celebrating the end of winter and the beginning of warm spring. The practice of scattering beans, usually roasted soybeans, is part of the ceremony, thereby people try to ward off devils and bring in good fortune. Beans are thrown shouting "Out with the devil. In with fortune". At Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, TV personalities and other notables whose birth year coincides with the Chinese zodiac of the year are invited to throw beans. In front of 15,000-strong visitors, 600-kilogram beans are thrown every year. Kenchoji also has it at Hansobo. Setsubun is unique in that it is honored both by Shinto shrines and Buddhism temples.
8th Hari kuyo {hah-re-koo-yoh} at Egara Tenjin
Hari is literally a needle, and Hari Kuyo is a memorial service in honor of used needles just like the Fude Kuyo. Nowadays, young women do not use needles, nor do they know how to sew. Until a couple of decades ago, however, needles had been one of the most important tools women had to use. Sewing is a technique required of women to master before marriage. The memorial service for needles was thus started years ago and it is still honored in various shrines.
11th Daikoku Toe {dye-kok-toe-eh} at Choshoji
On the final day of 100-day austere discipline, priests take a wash-down with cold water.
15th Nehan-e {neh-han-eh}
Shaka or Sakyamuni in Sanskrit is believed to have passed away on this day and memorial services called Nehan-e are carried out in many temples.

March

21st Memorial Service for Pet Animals at Kosokuji (at Hase)
Pet-lovers join the service to console the souls of the departed animals.


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