Category Archives: Festivals

Happy New Year!


View toward winter solstice sunrise from Asadori Myoujin (photo by Iwakage)

We at WoshiteWorld send our best wishes for the New Year beginning on winter solstice day, December 21-22. We do realize that it is summer solstice for you readers who live in the Southern Hemisphere. Here, north of the equator, since indigenous times, the December winter solstice marked the beginning of the new year.

The people of the Wosite era had a calendar, and it is described in the documents. Also, from the research done at the Kanayama Megaliths in Gifu Prefecture, we know that for more than five thousand years, the Jomon people observed the sun’s path in the sky and made a highly accurate calendar. The precise dates of the winter and summer solstices are difficult to determine by observations, but these ancient people accomplished this difficult task.

Here are two posts about the solstice by Okunomichi, and by Iwakage. There is also a winter solstice festival at Asadori Myoujin, which stems from prehistoric Jomon Japan. Perhaps the people of Wosite participated in it. The winter solstice is described in Wosite documents as the beginning of a new year and a time of renewal.

To our readers, best wishes for a happy new year!






Hotsuma Tsutae, Aya One. 1. Customs and Festivals

Aya One: Mihata no Hatsu, Beginning of the Loom.  


This is part one of Aya One, the first chapter of Hotsuma Tsutae. It starts with the childhood of the talented woman known as Wakahime. It’s packed full of anecdotes about festivals and customs.

Aya One also introduces Awa no Uta (Awanouta), in bold italics below. The earlier Wosite lesson on Awanouta was posted here,

This is our interpretation of Aya One starting with the transliteration from Wosite to Japanese of  We first prepared this in 2013, long before we met Woshite teacher Sakata Sensei and started the Woshite blogsite. Although this text has not yet been checked by her, we thought that we would revise to the best of our ability in light of her teachings and re-post this for those who are waiting for more material to study.

Wakahime no kami

Sore waka wa        wakahime no kami         That waka of Wakahime Kami,

suterarete       hirota to sotatsu        Given away and taken up to raise

kanasaki no        tsuma no chi wo ete        Kanasaki’s wife gave her milk

awa-u-wa ya        te uchi shio no me        Baby clapping awa-u-wa with the gentle wife.

ume-re-hi wa        kashimi-ke sonae        On her birthday, he made an offering of cooked food.

Childhood and Festivals

tachi maiya         mifuyu kami oki        Standing up;  when 3 years old hair-cutting ceremony

hatsuhi-mochi         Awa no uya ma hi        New Year’s day mochi, gave respect to Awa

momo ni hina         ayame ni chi maki         peach for Hinamatsuri (3/3), iris and mochi for Boys’ Day (5/5)

momo no hayasi

tanahata ya          kikukuri iwahi.         Tanabata (7/7),  chrysanthemum-chestnut festival (9/9)

itoshi fuyu          o wa hakama kiru          me wa kashiki.              

Fifth year winter, boys wear hakama,  girls wear kazuki.

Akishinonomiya Fumihiti Sinnou 1970           Uha-katuki

Awa no Uta 

kotoba wo naosu       To fix speech:

a ka ha na ma              i ki hi ni mi u ku                 

hu nu mu e ke             he ne me o ko ho no

mo to ro so yo             wo te re se ye tu ru

su yu wu ti ri              si yi ta ra sa ya wa.

a wa no uta            kadagaki uchite        Awa-no-uta, striking the lute,

hiki utau       wo no tsu to koe mo         playing and singing, in natural voice.

akirakani            ikura mu wata wo         Clear voice goes into the five organs and the six wata (body)

ne koe wake          fusoyo ni kayohi         voice spreads in 24 directions

yosoya koe         kore mi no uchi no        48 voices, in the body

mekuri yoku          yamahi araneba         circulates well, not getting sick, living long.

[To be continued in Part 2]


Hinamatsuri. Part 3. The poem in Wosite

In this Part 3, we present the Hinamatsuri poem in Wosite with romaji, in six charts. Before that, let’s discuss the multiplicity of meanings of key words in the story. After the charts, you’ll see a list of allographs to help you read the poem.

In the third segment of the poem below, we are told that the event marked the coming of age of Uhitini and Suhitini, the hutakami. The seijin-shiki is the modern day ceremony commemorating attainment of adulthood at age twenty. Kekkon-shiki is the wedding ceremony. In this story, both ceremonies take place on the same day.

Homonyms in the Hinamatsuri Poem

The Hinamatsuri poem is full of words with multiple meanings. For example, the word momo in the phrase, momo no hana. Is it “peach blossoms” or “hundreds of blossoms”? Both!

In a story that takes place later, Isanagi goes to the Yomi underworld in search of his wife Isanami.  He encounters evil spirits, and hides behind a peach tree. He throws peaches at the evil spirits, and they retreat. So, peaches are said to protect from evil spirits.

In the ancient world, momo has great significance. It bears images of springtime, fertility, regeneration, abundance, and protection.

Thinking of momo as the peach fruit brings up the word, fruit, mi. The full impact of mi as fruit and female comes clearer from studying the word ki. So let us first take up ki. It means tree, the male, and spirit or energy. It also carries the image of vibrant energy. As ki is part of the word  iki, breath, it implies life itself (see Post 5 about the vowel  i ). As we know, working with ki is basic to the martial arts such as aikido. We also find it in the healing art known as reiki, the ki of universal spirit.

As the poem related, ki is the tree and the male; mi is the fruit and the female. Ki is in Isanagi’s name; mi is in Isanami’s.

The word mi has many meanings. They are: the number three, the fruit of a tree, the female, the body. And most importantly, mi is frequently seen even today as an extremely high honorific indicating great respect as for a kami.

Can you see how the middle three (fruit, female, and body) are related concepts? In a modern dictionary, mi is found to mean body or meat/flesh, and fruit; they are written with different kanji.

Mi as the numeral three is still used today in the traditional method of counting ( hi, hu, mi, yo, i, …). The number three may be connected to fruit, female, and body in an esoteric or cosmogenic way (see how Universe was created in other posts).

The use of mi as sacred and as honorific is perhaps unique to the Japanese tradition. It would be an interesting etymological research question. There may be a clue in the brief discussion of kami in Post 4.1. There it says that mi is a wind-like energy from cosmos that is balanced and sent down.

Combining mi and ki, we have on the one hand miki, sacred sake. Here, mi denotes the sacred, and ki implies importance to breath and life. Miki is also mi-ki, female-male. In the wedding ceremony, the female sips sake before the male. Remember, also, that the event took place on miki, the third night of the third month. They take three sips of sake. So there is the connection with three.

When the word order is reversed, ki-mi, the new word is kimi. This referred to Uhitini and Suhitini, the male and the female. Kimi is another name for the Amakami, where Amakami could be singular or plural. In this case, this is the first time when Amakami became considered plural as a married couple.

The poem in Wosite and romaji, in six segments

1)yotuki no wo-kami 265~

2)mitosenoti 271~

    3)kimi ha sono276~

4)momotoni kumeru 280~

5)mi atukereha ya 284~

6)kono hinakata no 290~

Allographs in this Verse

There are many allographs (alternate forms of ideograms) in Verse 265ff. Let us take them up in the order of appearance.

Line 265   yotugi no wo-kami

gi:  ki  with a slant mark means to pronounce it  gi. It often means a male person.

wo:   wo is written as the basic with a horizontal line, indicating the meaning of male.

Line 269   kawu-miya na

wu:  This is written as basic, and is technically pronounced  wu  but is sometimes pronounced  n  depending on the context. Here, since it refers to the home of the kami, the proper pronunciation is  n  (for  kan-miya, kami-miya).

Line 271   mitose noti

mi:   Interesting that even though it means three, it is not written with the tick mark.

Line 273   momo no hana

ha:   This form of  ha  indicates a plant (ha  means leaf); here  hana  is blossom.

Line 273   huta-kami no na mo

hu:   Written with a tick mark, this  hu  means the number two.

Line 274   momohinagi

mo:   This looks rather like  wo  with  m  consonant overlaid,  doesn’t it? It refers to a male.

gi:   This appeared in line 265, and indicates a male person, which agrees with the allograph of  mo.

Line 275   hito naru mae yo

hi:   This allograph means  hi  as in person (hito).

Line 277   wo-kami ha ki

wo:   Same as above, male.

Line 279   yayohi mi-ka

mi:   This  mi  has a tick, indicating the numeral three.

Line 284  asu mi-asa

mi:   Same as Chart 3).

a:   This allograph has a small square instead of a dot. It is the formal version.

Line 284  samukawa ahiru

wa:   This form refers to water (kawa means river).    

a:   Same as above.

Line 291  wo ha kamuri

wo:   Same as above, male.

Line 294  yaso tutuki

ya:   The tick means the number eight.

so:   The tick means multiply by the number ten. Therefore  yaso  means eighty.

We hope that you have enjoyed learning about Hinamatsuri and the loving couple, Uhhitini and Suhitini. We have also learned the origin of some of the Japanese traditions. It is a marvel that these customs began thousands of years ago and are still practiced today.


Hinamatsuri. Part 2. The poem in English

DSCN3742 2

We related the story of the peach festival, the celebration of the wedding of the Amakami couple, Uhitini and Suhitini, in Part 1, which we interpreted from the poem in Hotsuma Tsutae, Verse 265ff. Here in Part 2, we give a free translation of the verse. You will be able to read the verse in the original Wosite form together with romaji pronunciation in Part 3.

Free Translation of Hotsuma Tsutate Verse 265

     1)  The heir of the Amakami, Uhitini, and Suhitini who became his wife,

their happy story from the beginning

took place in the area of the capital in those days

which was the Hinaru mountain, the home (miya) of the Amakami.

     2)  When children, they liked to play under the trees in the garden.

They picked up fallen nuts and planted them.

Trees grew and blossomed after three years.

On the third day of the third (lunar) month,

there were hundreds (momo) of flowers and later hundreds of peach (momo) fruit.

So when they were young, they were called Momohinagi and Momohinami.

     3)  The kimi were given names from the fruit of the tree:

the male is the tree (ki), the female is the fruit (mi).

On the third day of the third month, they observed their coming-of-age,

with an offering of miki sacred sake.

     4)  Under the peach trees, they poured miki,

and the moon reflected on the surface.

When offered the miki, she drank first, then he did.

They exchanged love by the teachings of To no Wosite.

     5)  In the morning, to calm down their flushed bodies,

they poured cold water on themselves at the stream.

Their sleeves got wet, a lot and a little (u-su) like the ardent hearts

of Uhitini and Suhitini, perfectly named, and

similar to Universe after creation (uhi) in olden times.

     6)  The clothing of the young people were

kamuri hat and uo-sote with hakama for the male,

ko-sote with uha-katuki veil for the female.

At that time began the custom of taking wives and forming homes and families.

All the people followed the Amenaru Miti.

Miki, Sake, and Misogi


Sake is a rice wine traditionally brewed during the winter months. The photo from Wikipedia shows a sake brewery in Takayama with a sugitama cedar ball showing that sake is being produced. The first batch of sake is usually ready in late winter or early spring. That is when we see the green sugitama. Over the course of the year, the ball turns browner and browner.

Miki is sacred sake. It is offered to kami and used in ritual and ceremony. Notice that mi-ki is the reverse of ki-mi. If ki is spirit, and mi is a high honorific, then mi-ki may be considered to be sacred spirit. Miki, when used in ritual, represents purity and purification.

Misogi is a water purification ritual, often practiced under natural waterfalls or in the ocean. The above story may be thought of as a first form of misogi, when Uhitini and Suhitini wash themselves in the cold mountain stream.


Hinamatsuri. Part 1. Origin of Peach Festival

momo no hayasi

Hinamatsuri Peach Festival

It is said that Hinamatsuri originated in the Heian period as a form of play with dolls. In modern times it is a Girls Day festival held on the third day of March. One of the main elements is a display of dolls of Emperor and Empress (Tennnou and Kougouand their court in Heian period dress. This is the true story behind Hinamatsuri and it reveals why it is also the peach blossom festival. This is the charming tale of childhood friends who became the fourth Amakami. The deep significance to their wedding is that it was the first time that the Amakami were recognized as a couple, and this led to societal changeover to a family-based system.

Peach Festival of the Third Day of the Third Month

Long, long ago, Uhitini and Suhitini played together under the peach trees of Hinaru mountain as children. There were hundreds of peach trees. Momo means both hundreds and peach. They were called Momohinagi and Momohinami, momo boy kami and momo girl kami. Their name suffixes were ki/gi for the male, from ki for tree; for the female, mi meaning fruit. They were referred to as kimi.

When they became adults, a ceremony was held on the third day of the third lunar month when the moon was a slim crescent. Under the flowering peach trees, they poured miki sacred sake wine with the crescent moon reflected in it. When offered miki, she drank first and then he did. (Mi-ki, woman first, man second.) They exchanged love by the sacred teachings of To no Woshite. This was their wedding ceremony.

In the morning, they went to the stream to cool off their ardent bodies. When pouring water, their sleeves got wet, a lot and a little (u-su). And so they received their adult names, Uhitini and Suhitini

Their style of clothing can still be seen today, although worn only on special occasions by special people. He wore a kamuri (also spelled kanmuri) hat and a robe with uo-sote sleeves over hakama trousers. She wore a robe with ko-sote sleeves and a veil called uha-katuki.

The wedding of Uhitini and Suhitini has great significance to Japanese culture and history. This is the first recorded wedding when a wife is publicly recognized. This began the custom of marriage and, moreover, a new lifestyle when families were formed by men and women and their children living in their homes. Everyone followed the Amenaru miti.

A wedding is the start of a new generation. The Hotsuma poem says that their wedding was like the beginning of Universe after creation. The poem is full of words that sound similar and have different meanings. For example, momo for peach and for hundreds. The meaning of momo is abundance and fertility.

And so, today when we see the dolls displayed on Hinamatsuri, let us remember the loving couple Uhitini and Suhitini and the sacred institution of marriage which they began so long ago. Indeed, the custom of the bride sipping miki before the groom continues in a traditional wedding ceremony even today.

Photo Captions

The photo of a young prince wearing (left) uo-sote sleeves that have wide (uo) openings, and wearing (right) ko-sote sleeves with small (ko) openings. 

Drawing of a 15th century woman wearing uha-katuki on her head. The uha-katuki was originally a kimono with short sleeves worn as a veil. 

Photo below of  Tennnou and Kougou  Emperor and Empress hina-dolls in Heian court dress. He wears a kamuri cap, and her robes show the uo large opening sleeves. [Permission received for use of copyrighted photo.]