Today, on Sunday 27th July, 2014, the Seishoko Festival 清正公まつり (Seishoko Matsuri) is taking place in Kumamoto City in the prefecture of Kumamoto on the island of Kyushu, Japan. Organised by Kato Shrine 加藤神社 in Kumamoto, the Seishoko Matsuri is held to honour and remember the founder of Kumamoto, Lord Kato Kiyomasa 加藤 清正. Seishoko 清正公 is an honorific designation as well as a term of endearment for Kato Kiyomasa 加藤 清正. The terminology of Seisho 清正 in Seishoko Matsuri is derived from the on-yomi (on-reading) of Kato Kiyomasa’s 加藤 清正 given name. Japanese kanji script comprises of two different ways of reading the one same character. On-yomi (on-reading) is how a character is read in the original Chinese when kanji was first imported to Japan during the 5th century. Kun-yomi (kun-reading) is the native Japanese reading of the written kanji character. The highlight of the festival is the 1.5 kilometre procession with priests, attendants, drummers, dancers, horseback riders and numerous mikoshi 神輿 from Kato Shrine weaving through the centre of Kumamoto. A re-enactment of Lord Kato Kiyomasa riding through the town on horseback. Lord Kato Kiyomasa is followed on foot by the town’s children costumed as his soldiers. It is heartening to witness so many children participating in the parade. Hundreds of girls as well as boys are occupying central roles throughout the festival alongside the adults. I think that an important way to learn about our local and national history is through community participation and by interacting with our elders.
I am especially encouraged to see girls and young women of all ages perform throughout the procession – as dancers, taiko drummers, soldiers, shrine attendants, supporters and as mikoshi leaders.
A mikoshi 神輿 is a palanquin or a portable Shinto shrine that is often ornately decorated with a phoenix at the apex to transport a Shinto deity between the main shrine and another destination.
The Seishoko Festival procession this year comprises of various important historical figures of the Edo period and about twelve different troops dressed in their designated colours in addition to the priests, their attendants parading through the neighbourhood.
The parade is colourful, loud, lively, exuberant and cheerful.
Bearers of the mikoshi at times sway and dance the portable shrine side to side amidst song and cheer to ‘entertain’ and ‘delight’ the Shinto deity they are ‘transporting’.
Yesterday and today, the city of Kumamoto has been celebrating!
Our community and we, ourselves, are enriched when we acknowledge, commemorate and pay tribute to our own history.