July 27

Matsuri

The celebration of Japan

A festival or holiday is referred to as a matsuri in Japan. There are many national celebrations such as New Year’s, Tanabata and Obon, amongst thousands of smaller, local Matsuri (festivals) each year. These local festivals trace back to historic Shinto rituals or harvest celebrations. Many of the traditions and rituals during Matsuri’s involved Taima (hemp). A matsuri generally falls into two parts: the solemn ritual of worship, followed by a joyous celebration.

The worship begins with a cleanse, then a request for Kami to descend, by giving offerings, and prayers.

Then Kami is taken out in a portable shrine, called Mikoshi, and carried through neighbourhoods blessing all the places along its route. The celebration allows local people to carry the miniature shrine wearing fundoshi (loincloth), originally made from hemp. Carrying the mikoshi is a time-honored tradition.

Once the deity is returned to the shrine, the priest holds a welcome ceremony, and the celebration continues which includes special dance performances (noh), plays (kabuki) and athletic events (sumo wresting). The noh dancers wear masks made of hemp, while the Kabuki perform in “hemp-back sandals”, and the sumo wrestle in mawashi (belts) filled with hemp.

In final you’ll witness an abundance of fireworks made from hemp charcoal. The larger the fireworks, the heavier the shakudama (holding space), the firework needs to be high when launched, so hemp has been used for its light weight, to make the biggest and highest firework celebration.

During the summer Obon festival, families burned bundles of cannabis in their doorways to welcome back the spirits of the dead. At Japanese weddings, Shishimai dragon dances are sometimes performed. The thick white “hair” of these dragons is hemp fiber. With the strength of the hemp fiber, it is meant to be “unbreakable, Just like the bond between two soulmates.

The Japanese people have a unique hemp culture in every important part of their lives.