The On-Matsuri, also known as Grand Festival, is an important event that takes place in the end of the year in the complex of Kasuga Taisha 春日大社 in Nara. Held by the subsidiary Wakamiya shrine 若宮神社, it presents a variety of classic performing arts that gained recognition as an Important Intangible Cultural property of Folk Culture in 1979 . In certain way, the festival can be considered as a capsule bringing the old traditional performing arts, such us bugaku 舞楽, sarugaku 猿楽 or classical Japanese music, from Heian times to us today.
The deity honored in this festival is Wakamiya, the child of two Kasuga deities. Namely, Ame-no-koyane-no-mikoto 天児屋根命, housed in the 3rd shrine, and his wife ...view middle of the document...
The temple continued to make gains thereafter in a see-saw battle with the court of the Fujiwara over control not only of Yamato but of the Kasuga Shrine itself. Kōfukuji believed that by controlling the Kasuga Shrine, it could exclude the Fujiwara clan and make Yamato its own.
Therefore, Kōfukuji achieved a major success when the Kasuga Wakamiya, honored at Kasuga since 1003, was given an independent sanctuary in 1135. In the same year an edict by Fujiwara no Tadamichi 藤原忠通 (1097-1164) was issued to call for an end to a 2-year famine (1035-1036) and for a bountiful crop. This led to the institution of the On-matsuri festival in honor of Wakamiya, supervised by 5 Kōfuku-ji monks or bechi-e goshi 別会五師 (Five Masters of the Special Rite) in 1136. Kōfukuji engineered the event in order to strengthen its hold on the Kasuga Shrine. Part of the problem was that Kōfukuji monks, although devoted to Kasuga, had no access to the regular Kasuga Festival which honored the four main deities, for on this occasion monks were classed with persons in mourning and pregnant women, and obliged to keep their distance. Thus, it is said the first festival was held on 17th day of the 9th month of Hōen 2 (1136), a year after deity was transferred to his new shrine in Chōshō 4 (1135).
Having thus initiated a major Kasuga festival of its own, Kōfukuji turned it into the great annual festival of Yamato province. And once Kōfukuji had managed to seize control of the Kasuga Shrine, it gained the final allegiance of the local landowners on estates throughout Yamato.
In that sense, it can be implied that the On-matsuri became a festival for everyone, not the elite only. In summary, it was a rite dedicated to a new divinity and organized by the province, totally different form the state-sponsored Kasuga Grand Rite.
It is also very important to understand why, if Kōfukuji was the Fujiwara’s temple, there was such...