Oeskiki is an annual buddhist festival held on the 13th of October that commemorates the death of Nichiren in 1282. He was a revered buddhist teacher who lived during the Kamakura period, about 700 years ago. Although celebrated throughout Japan, the main Oeshiki festival is held at Ikegami Honmonji Temple located in the Ota ward in suburban Tokyo – the location where Nichiren died.
The festival lasts all week and reaches its zenith of noise and excitement on the night of 12th October with a long illuminated parade of Mando along a two-kilometer route from Ikegami Station to the celebrated temple. Mando, which literally means “10,000 lanterns”, is a rite where some 3,000 worshippers carrying sacred lanterns decorated with beautiful cherry blossoms.
We just happened to find a hotel in Ikegami during this event by pure coincidence and it was the best part of the trip. So vibrant, passionate, full of joy and deep cultural roots.
Watch my video of the Oeshiki Festival of Light
Another highlight of the ceremony is Matoi. Matoi is referring to the Edo period’s firemen. In the ceremony, Matoi will play flutes and drums to accompany the Mando. The mando are something like a parade float, which are about 5 meters (16.4’) in height. In its structure built in the form of a five-story pagoda with the Odaimoku (Namu Myoho Renge Kyo) or pictures of Nichiren Shōnin’s life depicted on the sides. The whole structure is lit from the inside and rows of artificial cherry blossoms are hung from the top on an umbrella to from a cherry tree, because it is said that when Nichiren Shōnin passed away the cherry trees came into bloom out of season. Nichiren Shōnin’s studies of the various Buddhist teachings convinced him that the true and only doctrine, the quintessence of Buddhism, was the Lotus Sutra (Hokke Sutra, the Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma, or Saddharma Pundarika Sutra). He resolved that henceforth all Buddhist scripture should be judged in its light. His devotion was so deep that he changed his name to Nichiren.
Nichiren means “Sun Lotus.” He described his name as follows:
“There is nothing so clear and serene as the sun and the moon, and nothing purer than the lotus flower. The Lotus of the Perfect Truth is like the sun and the moon and the lotus flower.”