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Newsletter: Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition

Delivered on November 19, 2014
Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 38]November 19, 2014

Delivery Of Japan's Seasonal Tradition [Issue 38]
November 19, 2014
Japanese Traditional Culture Promotion & Development Organization


1.Seasonal Festival:
How come a rake became a bringer of good luck? :
Tori no Ichi (Cock Market)

:: 1. Seasonal Festival

How come a rake became a bringer of good luck? : Tori no Ichi (Cock

The season has arrived to hear the news about the cock market again
this year in Japan. In the cock market, a large number of people
excitedly gather to buy the colourfully decorated "Kumade" rake which
is made of bamboo. As it is believed to bring luck, people place the
rake in an entrance hall or household Shinto altar to pray for
thriving business.

Based on the sexagenary cycle, cock market is held on the "cock days"
in November. The cycle of cock day comes twice or three times in the
month, depending on the year. It is twice this year which is on the
10th and 22nd of November. Legend has it that in the years when the
cock day comes three times, fire often occurs. Therefore, a sticker
warning of fire is attached to the rakes sold in the market every
time the year arrives.

Cock market takes place in some shrines which has "Ootori (big bird)"
in its name in Kanto area (East Japan). According to the legends,
"Yamato Takeru" who is a hero of Japanese mythology, died on a
cockday in November and after his death, he turned into a swan and
flew away.
This legendary hero has been enshrined at Ootori-jinja shrines because
he used to pray for and celebrate the victory of wars there

Although cock market is known as the event to buy a rake for people
who pray for thriving business today, the festival allegedly started
in order to celebrate the harvest among the farmers who lived around
the Ootori-jinja shrines. They placed autumn crops and farming
implements as well as offering living cocks to the shrine. After the
festival, those cocks were taken to Senso-ji temple in Asakusa and
then set free in front of the temple dedicated to Kannon (Deity of
Mercy). The Ootori-jinja shrine and Chokoku-ji Temple in Asakusa are
still famous for the cock market today. On the east side of these
sanctuaries, there used to be a Red-light district which was called
New Yoshiwara in the Edo period (17-19c). The district gate was
normally strictly closed to the public except for its clients, but
opened to everyone only on the cock market days. This is why the
market has been bustling since that time.

The cock market for farmers gradually changed into urban area's
festivals, and the farming rake turned into a symbol of raking up
good luck.
However, it was only bought by brothels and restaurants but no other
merchants in the Edo period (17-19c). It is very interesting that the
rake was originally a filthy thing to gather waste but somehow
diverted to a good luck thing just as some other similar converted
folk beliefs such as if you stepped on horse manure, you will be able
to run faster or if you keep a snake shell, it will bring you better
luck with money.

The appearance of this "Kumade" rake is far from the usual practical
rake. If you are interested in seeing it, why don't you have a look
the pictures on the Internet?

Tori No Ichi (Chokoku-ji Temple)

Translation: Hitomi Kochi, reviewed by Noriko Osaka

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Development Organization (JTCO)- All Rights Reserved.

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