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Epidemics and Festivals

There has been a lot of talk about the new coronavirus.
In the Heian period (794-1185), epidemics of plague occurred frequently.

In the Heian period, epidemics were frequent.
Even when people died, they could not be cremated immediately.
Today’s public health science shows that the cause of death was a virus.
In those days, it was thought to be the work of a grudge (goryo).

What was thought to be the best way to appease these grudging spirits?
The Yasurai Festival and the Gion Festival were thought to be the best way to appease these spirits.

The Yasurai Matsuri is a festival held in the northern part of Kyoto.
The Yasurai Matsuri is a festival held in the northern part of Kyoto, and is still held at Genbu Shrine, Imamiya Shrine, Kawakami Grand Shrine, and Kamigamo.
Since the epidemic occurred in March of the lunar calendar, when the cherry blossoms began to fall, people prayed for good health by appeasing the spirits of the flowers.
Some people think that the disease may have been caused by hay fever, because the time of year coincided with the hay fever season.
However, some people think it is not because the sanitary conditions are completely different from today.

The Gion Festival was also called Gorei-kai in the old days, to appease the plague gods and grudge-bearing spirits, and to appease the tragedies of those who died with grudges left behind.
Since the festival enshrines the Goddess of Mercy, the name Tenno Matsuri has spread throughout the country.

Gion Matsuri is a festival that has been held for 1150 years.
It was an inland swampy area, which led to the spread of malaria and
Dysentery and cholera were also common.
It is said that dysentery and cholera were also rampant in the area.

The role of the Gion Festival as a disease repellant has diminished considerably.
However, being a commercial area, there is another aspect to the festival.

Yamahoko floats sell their own chimaki (broomstick-like objects) and charms.
There is a children’s song to sell these items.
In the evening, children actually sing the song.
In the evening, the children actually sing the song, and it is said to be an excellent social education by imitating business.