Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Ideha Museum

The next stop on the sightseeing tour was the Ideha museum, a museum displaying artefacts and information about the Dewa Sanzan area. Some things I learned at the museum:

I cannot blow a conch shell horn.

There were and are many mountain priests in the area called Yamabushi who live extremely ascetic lives and carry conch shell horns around with them.

There was a rite of rebirth that used to be practiced in the area. I don't know why people would want to be reborn but when they did, they would be symbolically killed and then would do this weird ceremony and while they did the ceremony they were officially considered dead. The ceremony involved them wearing red ties to symbolize blood, a hat with white things stuck all over it to symbolize a placenta, and they would hold a huge staff about 4 metres high that symbolised an erect penis. Just in case the phallicness of the staff was not obvious enough, there was a bundle of sacred paper attached to the top that looked like a head and arrows pointing out the top that symbolised ejaculating semen. I'm guessing it was more of a Shinto rite than a Buddhist one.

At some stage there was an insect that decimated the crops in the area and caused famine. To this day every winter the local people make an 8m long model of the insect out of straw and burn it while yelling viciously just to make sure the insect never troubles them again.

They also make a model of a dragon's head out of straw to pray for rain, although the replica in the museum looked more like an oversized handbag to me.

Sumo may have originated in the Dewa Sanzan area as a post praying-under-waterfall strength comparing dance. Or maybe not.

Snakes liked to get into the walls of straw huts because straw is warm.

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