Two new postcards from Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo!
Oda Nobunaga in a Strange Procession,Seison Maeda, 1969
I selected this postcard without knowing about the artist or the subject. What caught my attention was the playfulness that only a 20th century artist would have applied to what is clearly an intentionally traditional piece.
I later learned that Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582) was an extremely powerful samurai daimyo who, by his intellect and brutality, helped unify Japan.
The artist, Seison Maeda (1885-1977), was an Imperial court painter and is considered one of the greatest in contemporary Japanese art. Known for his historical portraits, I was delighted to discover Maeda’s most famous painting, 1929’s Yoritomo in a Cave,on a 1982 postage stamp!
In the year 869, plague and pestilence swept Japan. This misfortune was attributed to a deity on the rampage, and the emperor ordered his people to pray to the deity at the Yasaka Shrine in modern-day Kyoto. Nearly every year since, on July 17th, the Yamaboko Junko parade has made its way through downtown Kyoto to the shrine. Certain families have the honor of maintaining the float skeletons from year to year, bringing them out to be decorated anew each July. In the 16th century, when the Zen Buddhist Ashikaga Shogunate banned religious events, the people protested. The Japanese were willing to do without the rituals, but not without the parade.
Yamaboko Junko is part of a month-long festival called Gion Matsuri, the roots of which lie in a cleansing ritual to appease the fiery god. There are other types of parades and shrine activities throughout the festival, and what sounds like a very special three nights leading up to the big event. On these three nights called yoiyama, the whole city pours into downtown to enjoy street food beneath the lanterns and visit the old kimono merchant district, where normally private houses open their doors to the public, displaying valuable heirlooms. But what do I know–If you’ve ever been in Kyoto during Gion Matsuri, please comment on your experience!