Dear Family and Friends,
A friend told me about a Shinto festival at Sendai’s Osaki-Hachiman-Jingu Shrine today. I had not been to one of their events in a long time, so decided to go. My friend’s son would be there helping. That, of course, added to my eagerness to attend.
As soon as my friend’s son could crawl and make his wishes known, he demanded that his mom take him to the Shrine so he could spend time with the priests. They loved him, of course, and let him crawl around, exploring as he wished. He has been going there ever since, and now at age eleven is happy to serve when and now he can.
I was not sure what to expect today. Osaki-Hachiman-Jingu has a variety of festivals throughout the year. For example, there a special day to honor and protect firemen. And another that entails competitions on horseback. Riders gallop at full speed along a short, narrow pathway, shooting arrows at targets set along the course. Onlookers are alarmingly nearby. And of course, there is Dontosai, held in the dead of winter. For that, male participants wear only loincloths (woman a bit more), and walk through the city ringing bells as they head to the Shrine. There New Year decorations are burned in huge bonfires.
So, what should I expect today?
Several blocks away from Osaki-Hachiman-Jingu, I could already hear the continuous whining drone of flutes and the slow, steady beat of drums. I wandered past festival food stalls
In the first one I watched, the dancers were not professional. Rather they were ordinary men connected to the Shrine.
I stayed for two dances and then slowly wandered around the grounds. Several small side Shrines have recently been constructed.
If I were younger, I probably would have stayed to the very end of the dances. But I knew I had to get home before becoming too tired. And I had an hour to walk home. The shrill drone of the flutes, and even throbbing of the drums followed me until I could no longer hear them. Of course, I knew the dances were continuing without me.
Although leaving before the end was something new for me, I rather liked it. I found it symbolic of my aging. And an important reality that I am working to come to terms with, and to accept with grace.
Leaving while the performances were continuing also allowed my day to come full cycle. It began it with Takemitsu Toru’s piece called “from me flows what you call time”. That is surely a prayer set to music and very much related to the eternal unfolding of life.