The Rooster Festival
(Tori-no-hi in November)

●酉の市 Torino-ichi Festival;
●酉 a rooster
●十二支 the twelve signs of the Chinese zodiac
●神社 a shrine
●寺 a temple
●境内 precincts
●参道 an approach to a shrine; an approach to a temple
●商売繁盛 the prosperous business; the prosperity of one’s business
●家内安全 the safety of one’s family; the well-being of one’s family
●縁起熊手 Engi-kumade; a lucky rake
●打ちでの小槌 a lucky mallet
●招き猫 a lucky-beckoning cat
●小判 an old Japanese gold coin
●鶴 a crane
●亀 a turtle
●手締め Tejime; a united ceremonial hand-clapping performance
●収穫祭 a harvest testival
●露店 a (street) stall

In the lunar calendar, Juni-shi, the twelve signs of the Chinese zodiac, are used to designate years, months, days and time based on a traditional Chinese idea.

The Juni-shi signs are Ne (Rat), Ushi (Ox), Tora (Tiger), U (Rabbit), Tatsu (Dragon), Mi (Snake), Uma (Horse), Hitsuji (Sheep), Saru (Monkey), Tori (Rooster), Inu (Dog) and I (Wild Boar).

Since each day comes once every 12 days, days with the same Juni-shi sign come two or three times a year.

The festivals called Tori-no-ichi, Otori-sama or Tori-no-matsuri (the Rooster Festival) are held at Tori-no-koku (a rooster time: from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.) at Otori Shrines mainly in the Kanto area on Tori-no-hi (a rooster day) in November of every year.

The first Tori-no-ichi is called “Ichi-no-tori”, the second is called “Ni-no-tori”, and the third is called “San-no-tori”.

According to a common saying, fires break out more during the year in which the San-no-tori Festival is held.

The three greatest Tori-no-ichi in Tokyo are held in Otori Shrine located in Taito Ward, Hanazono Shrine in Shinjuku Ward and Okunitama Shrine in Chofu City.

Tori-no-ichi are held in temples as well as shrines such as the Chokoku-ji Temple in Taito Ward, Tokyo which is the birthplace of Asakusa Tori-no-ichi.

Rows of stalls sell “Engi-kumade”, a traditional lucky charm in the precincts of the temples and shrines.

Engi-kumade is a bamboo rake decorated with lucky items such as Okame (a lucky female mask of a flat and plump face), Uchide-no-koduchi (a lucky mallet), Maneki-neko (a lucky-beckoning cat), koban (an old Japanese gold coin) and a pair consisting of a crane and a turtle which symbolize longevity.

Engi-kumade range from small ones for a thousand yen to 2 or 3-meter-tall ones for several hundred thousand yen; the best-selling ones are around ten thousand yen.

It is considered to be good luck each year to buy Engi-kumade a little bigger than the previous year.

There seems to be a sophisticated way to buy Engi-kumade in which buyers ask the price and negotiate but pay as much as or sometimes more than the price which the seller originally stated, and then the sellers vigorously perform Tejime (a united ceremonial hand-clapping performance) for the buyers.

While people head home after buying Engi-kumade, they should raise it higher to beckon luck, decorate it on a high place near the entrance inside of the building and never face it to the north.

After 1 year, people ask Engi-kumade sellers to throw them away when they buy new ones, otherwise they leave them in special places where temples or shrines hold Tori-no-ichi, and if impossible for certain reasons, they can throw them away as waste after purifying them with salt and wrapping them with white paper.

There are some theories about the origin of Tori-no-ichi, and one of them is that the farmers around Otori Shrines dedicated chickens to the shrine during the harvest festival and afterwards and then released the chickens in front of Kannon-do Temple of Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa.

In another theory, Yamato Takeru, who was the son of the 12th Emperor and the father of the 14th Emperor, prayed for victory in the war in the east part of Japan at Otori Shrine in Kuki City, Saitama Prefecture and the war ended with his great victory.

The headquarters of Otori Shrines is Otori-honsha located in Sakai City, Osaka Prefecture which enshrines Yamato-takeru as a deity of long-lasting good luck in battle and a guardian against fire calamity.

He conquered Kumaso, the present southern part of Kyushu Island and successfully suppressed Togoku, the present eastern part of Japan.

However, afterwards, he suffered from a serious disease on Mt. Ibuki in Maibara City, Shiga Prefecture, passed away and was buried in Nobono of Ise-koku.

His soul flew from the imperial grave in the form of a swan and finally stopped at the place where the first Otori Shrine was built to enshrine Yamato-takeru after flying up and down several times.

In another theory, when Amaterasu-omikami (a solar female deity of the Shinto religion) was enticed out from Ama-no-iwato (a heavenly rock cave) where she was hiding and irradiated the universe with her supernatural light, one of the deities was there.

The deity was an accomplished player of “gen” (a stringed instrument) and had one at that time.

A falcon flew down on his instrument, and therefore, the bird came to be regarded as a good omen.

A letter “鷲” (a falcon) was added to this deity’s name and he came to be called Ame-no-hi-washi-no-mikoto.

Tori-no-ichi is rarely held at temples and shrines in the Kansai area except in Otori-taisha.

In the Kansai area, Toka-ebisu is more famous than Tori-no-ichi as the festivals for the prosperity of our business and the safety of our family.

(Please see “Our Torino-ichi Festival Experience” for further information.)

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