Every year on February 11 in Yamashina of Eastern Kyoto, a festival of destiny and good luck occurs with the blessings of Buddha. It is a procession style festival with bonfires and exhibitions filling the air of Yamashina with excitement.
Agon Shu’ is a Buddhist sect founded by a spiritual leader named, Seiyu Kiriyama in 1954. It was legally recognized as one of the Japanese new religions in 1981. The Japanese scholars classify the religious sects or organizations established since the mid 19th century as “new religions”. They are inspired by the old religions such as Shinto, Buddhism and so on. Agon Shu takes its principles from particular Buddhist teachings called ‘Agama Sutras’ which are considered true teachings of Buddha and argue that Buddhism in Japan is a deviation from its original teachings. ‘Agon Shu’ is Japanese for ‘Agama Sutras’ which in Sanskrit means the ‘main teachings of Buddha’. The Agon Shu sect performs some esoteric rituals based on Buddhist traditions in Tibet and Bhutan.
‘Hoshi’ is Japanese for ‘Star’. In the context of this festival, it refers to ‘the star of destiny’. The Agon Shu disciples believe that it is the star of destiny that decides the sorrows and joys that one will encounter in their life. They believe that destiny comes in two types; one through birth (honmyojo) and the other yearly (tonenzokusho).
During the festival, prayers for individual`s happiness and prosperity are conducted. Prayers for World Peace are given by conducting esoteric rituals and displaying ancient authentic Buddhist relics. In addition to that, two huge pyres made of prayer sticks collected from the visitors called ‘gomagi’ are set on fire. Many musical drum performances, fortune telling, an exhibition of different Buddhist statues and relics are conducted throughout. Special Buddhist images and some mysterious meditation tools such as ‘mandala’ originally brought from Bhutan are also shown.
This is a great traditional festival to attend as there is a lot of various customs being performed. So, if you are interested in learning more about local traditions and rituals, this festival is definitely one for you!