New Year

This year I am spending my first new year period (お正月) in Kyoto. Although the temperatures seemed to be slightly higher than London (recently hit by a blizzard that seriously threatened my departure by having Heathrow and Gatwick shut for a few days), I reached Kyoto once the weather changed here too. We had rain, cold winds, snow and all that comes with the rigours of winter.

One of the most interesting events so far has been the New Year’s performance of Okina at Yasaka-Jinja in Kyoto on January 3rd (the shite was the Kongoh iemoto, Kongoh Hisanori). The New Year is probably the most important festivity of the year in Japan, and people use to pay their visit Shinto shrines (but actually Buddhist temples, too) for what is called 初詣, or ‘first pilgrimage’. Okina is a special performance that does not belong to the 5 ‘regular’ categories, but it is considered a sort of primal performance, although several critics see it as a form of ‘invented tradition’ part of the programme of national resurrection that began during the mid/late Meiji period. Despite philological speculation (with which I anyway concur), I have to admit Okina possesses an ancestral charm to which I unwillingly fall victim… as we say in Italian: ‘l’importante e’ crederci!’


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