「天子宮祭」 ~ Tenshigu Festival

「天子宮祭」
作者:史杰輝
編輯:黃馨慧

在日本教英文的兩年,我住在熊本市郊外的村子,叫天水町。是在鄉下,主要收入來源是蜜柑農業。五十年前它很繁榮,但是現在只有六千人,村民一年比一年少。因爲村子太小,政府五年前跟北方有五萬人口的玉名市合併了,可是村民保留了他們自己上千年的傳統和歷史。

那裡最具地方色彩的節慶一定是十月十五號的「天子宮祭」。傳説九百年前,在天水町的前身,小天町,因爲發生了一場大火災,死了許多人,也燒毀了無數農場及家庭。小天人認爲一定得求火神的保護。所以在下次的收穫,村民去天子宮裡求神幫助他們,並且點大篝火,表演神聖樂,光著腳經過灰末,祈禱希望能防止災難,受到幸運之神的眷顧。結果村民真的如願了。從此以後,每年都舉行類似的慶祝活動。

因爲逢節慶,特別傳統和熱鬧的關係,所以小吃和酒包羅萬象。天子宮離我當時的家只有兩百公里。是一個既漂亮又神秘的地方。附近的人,連小學生都去祭拜。雖然男女都去廟裡參觀,可是順著傳統,節慶的角色都歸男生管。有的學生表演神聖樂,有的跟大人一起舉行傳統活動。最重要的角色歸兩個男學生。在半夜,篝火燃盡了以後,他們光著腳經過灰末。這在他們的成長過程中,實在是一個重要的經驗。聽説這兩個男生害怕得連多麽痛苦也記不住。對村民來說也是個神秘的事件。因爲節日總是十五號,縱然次日是平日,大家非得上課不可。不過能經過灰末的人會受到大家尊敬。

在那裡,我朋友多得讓我聊一了整晚,村民也讓我參加節慶。我第一年跟消防部門一起一邊喝酒,一邊討論很深入的題目,像愛,宗教等等。雖然那時候我說的日文非常簡單,可是他們寬容地聼我說話,給我安慰的回答。最後他們送給我一件制服,我穿制服幫助他們。(可見他們是個比較輕鬆的團體。)

第二年我參加了傳統表演。跟年輕男生一起猛攻廟門,被年長男人擠出了幾次。我也拿著旗指揮他們三次,可是,意外地用旗子割破了一個老公的額頭。我害怕得要命,恐怕會導致第三次世界大戰,沒想到他和他太太卻從容安詳,若無其事地說「這就是在大拜拜平常會發生的事情,請你別擔心,去慶祝吧。」他後來好了,我的鄰居居然不罵我。

因爲我在臺北學習的關係,今年不能參加了,可是從我的繼任者聼說,今年的天子宮祭很好玩。我以前的鄰居也經過灰末,然後寄錄像帶給我。讓我很開心。希望這種節慶永遠繼續下去。

Tenshigu Festival
Author: James Smyth
Editor: Huang Xin-hui

During my two years of English teaching in Taiwan, I lived on the outskirts of Kumamoto City, in a town called Tensui. It’s a rural village whose main industry is mikan tangerine farming. Tensui was prosperous fifty years ago, but now there are only six thousand people living there, and its population declines year after year. Because it’s so small, five years ago its government merged with Tamana, a city of 50,000 residents, but Tensui’s citizens will never forget their one thousand years of history and tradition.

Without a doubt, the town’s most colorful event is the Tenshigu Matsuri on October 15th. (Tenshi: Son of Heaven; Gu: Temple; Matsuri: Festival.) They say that over 900 years ago, in the town of Oama, the precursor of Tensui, there was a wildfire that killed many people and razed countless farms and homes. The townspeople decided they should ask the god of fire for his intercession. The following harvest season, they met at Tenshigu, made a bonfire, played sacred music, walked across hot ashes, and prayed for good luck and protection against disasters. The townspeople had very good fortune that year, so they have performed the same ceremony ever since.

Since the festival is especially energetic and traditional, it’s well-known throughout the area. Of course, there are all kinds of food and drinks on sale. Tenshigu is only 200 meters away from my former home, and everyone in the neighborhood, even the elementary school students, takes part. Although both men and women attend the festival, only males perform in the ceremonies, in keeping with tradition. Some students play sacred music and dance, and some perform other roles together with the adults.

The most important parts are played by two male students. At midnight, after the bonfire has burned out, they cross the ashes barefoot. It’s an important experience in their lives. Students who have done it before told me they were so frightened that they can’t remember the pain. For the townspeople, it’s a spiritual occurrence. Because the festival is always on the 15th, even if the next day is a weekday, everyone still has to come to school. The young men who walked on fire, however, receive special respect.

I had so many friends there that I could talk all night, but the townspeople also had me take part in the ceremonies! My first year, I drank with the fire department and had profound conversations with them about love, religion, and so on. Though my Japanese was very basic, they graciously listened to me and sincerely responded to me. At the end, they gave me my own uniform, and I put it on and helped them out. (As you can imagine, they were a lighthearted bunch.)

My second year, I took part of one of the traditional performances. Again and again, I stormed the temple gates with the other young men, and we were repelled by the older men. I was the flagbearer three times, but then I accidentally cut an older man’s forehead open. I was terrified. I was afraid I’d just started World War III. But he and his wife were actually very relaxed about it, and they said, “This sort of thing always happens at festivals. Don’t worry! Go back and celebrate!” He recovered, and somehow none of the townspeople scolded me.

Since I’m studying in Taipei, I couldn’t be there this year, but I was happy to hear that my successor had a lot of fun at this year’s festival. My neighbor ran across the ashes, and he sent me a video. I hope the Tenshigu Matsuri will continue forever.

Explore posts in the same categories: Interesting Places, Japan, Religion, Schoolwork, 中文

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