Oni, an ogre, is a human-like figure with a horned head and an ugly red face. A loincloth of a tiger’s skin covers its naked body. The oni are rather familiar beings in the life of Japanese people, and often appear in folktales, legends and proverbs as a symbol of evil with violent and cruel natures and of Herculean strength. Parents often tell children that if they misbehave, oni will come and eat them.

On Setsubun, one of the time-honored festivals held on February 2 or 3, people drive away the oni from the household by throwing roasted beans at them. These beans have been used as a charm against demons since ancient times.

Oni also appears at Yakuyoke-sai, the festival protecting against misfortune held at some local Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples.Oni you see at Yakuyoke-sai is quite different from the dreadful devil or goblin but obedient servant of the Gods or Buddha, gentle friend of the children.

Dancing service by oni at the public ceremony of Setsubun and Yakuyokesai is called Oni-yarai or Oni-oi. However oni's character at each event is different though the outward appearance is the same.

Coffee Break
◎Your pictures and stories about the Oni were very interesting.  The pictures alone tell a beautiful story.  We have been to Himeji on two occasions with our friend Mr. Miyazaki.  Himeji is also a sister city of our hometown, Phoenix.  Each February in Phoenix there is a Japanese festival in our downtown area with participants from Himeji City.   Thank you for your continuing fabulous home page.   We always enjoy it. 

              --Joe and Susan Bacskay, Phoenix, Arizona, USA

Your description
of the start of the New Year in Japan. It was very different here with brilliant sunshine and temperatures as high as 32 deg. Our celebrations to usher in the New Year  are marked by large gatherings in our city centres e.g. Cathedral Square in Christchurch, with musical performances and fireworks displays at midnight.
 
Our celebrations this year had more significance than usual as we look forward to a better year in 2011 after a year of earthquakes, economic depression and a tragic coal mine disaster.
 
.Best Wishes to you both for a very happy New Year.
 
          --Colin and Noela Knight, Christchurch, New Zealand--

I was  worried you  might slip on the icy temple ground any second. I am puzzled why the area was not de-iced before  the big oni-oi event. The temple ground  may be too big for de-icing, but at least the busy passways and the stairs should be taken care of. Anyway  I am glad you and Rumi enjoyed the day without any slip and fall injuries.
  
You should feel very honored to be called Oni,  because ,as you explain in your HP, not all ogres are bad in Japan: there are two kind of them ---- the one 'with a horned head and an ugly red face、、、、、and with violent and cruel natures'. The other is  'obedient servants of the gods and Buddha, gentle friends of the children' .  I am very sure the latter definition of  a 'good oni' applies to you, although some of the students who hated English class may disagree with me. >
 
 Did you know  mischievous and witty  students gave you a even better nickname ?----- Onigawara (ogre-face roof tile  , 鬼瓦) !!!  You are so-nicknamed ,not because you look like a fierce ceramic tile sculpture looking down at the world with scary eyes, but because you occupy the  most prominent location atop the roof of buildings and chase demons away.  I can clearly picture 'Takeuchi sensei-face' onigawara watching over  Fukiai High School and its students from the high perch. It is the perfect nickname for you who love Fukiai High School very much  ( Here again your I-HATE-ENGLISH students  may disagree with me.)
 

             --Haruyo  Hazelton (nee Konishi), BC. Canada--


Just
as I was relaxing this morning and re-reading the catalog of the 2006 Sydney Art Exhibiton ZEN MIND ZEN BRUSH, your HP full of the beauty and wisdom of the seasonal traditions of Japan, arrived.

In it you identify two types of ONI, and you explain the differences of their character well.  In addition to these two ONI, I believe their is a third type of ONI in Japan - the 'Guardian Angel" that men have at home, that prevents them from getting into too much mischief as they go about their daily life outside of the home.   I have heard Japanese men referring to their spouses as "ONI" - a term of endearment, I am sure.  

Regarding the life of couples together in the ZEN tradition, I would like to share with you the following from the 禅心禅筆 Catalog.   This is the "Zen Couple" scroll by Yamaoka TESSHU:
You have done
The Calligraphy (Translated by John Stevens, 2001) reads:

"You'll reach one hundred, I'll reach ninety-nine, as our hair turns white together" 

The commentary says:   "This is a wonderful interpretation of Takasago, a No play about an old couple.  The pair lived for decades in connubial bliss, and died at a great old age. With just a few masterful brushstrokes, Tesshu has created two elderly lovers who sit in quiet contentment together.  The husband offers to go first, but the couple, as close in death as in life, will likely pass away within a few days of each other.  The kind of Zenga served as good luck charm for married couples.   The particular style of depicting Takasago appears to have originated with Tesshu and thereafter become a standard theme in Zenga."   Tesshu developed the greatest respect for his wife and often said to his friends that he could have accomplished nothing without her help. 

What wise words  -  where would any of us be without our spouses.


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Thank you for your reply and elaborating on the usage of the word "Oni".

In Western culture, the "Devil" has, of course, a very strong Christian religious connotation.  "Old Nick", a colloquialism for the Devilbeing the supreme spirit of evil, the tempter of humankind and the enemy of  God.  the word "Devil" may also be applied to wicked and cruel persons, as its usage is in Japan.    
The fight between God and the Devil -  between Good and Evil.


                  
     
 -Claus & Michiko Jehne, Brisbane, Australia- 

◎Thank you for this extra Homepage in December, to mark the season of Christmas, and for your Season Greetings and good wishes.  We also hope that you have a a chance for a holiday during this period, Tak.

Of special pleasure to me this year has been to have my niece, Lucy Foote, visiting Osaka, Kobe, Amagasaki, Nara, Kyoto and other regions of Japan, in preparation for her role as a new Residential Assistant at Sonoda Christchurch Campus.  In the photographs I have seen of her time in Japan, she has included some taken when she also visited the Kobe Luminarie.  It is good to feel that she and you and Rumi were at the same location for this spectacular light-show, Tak.

                     --Tom and Kate Gregg, Christchurch,New Zealand---


◎You have done a wonderful job with your website - the colours are so vivid and relaxing. I do hope that we will meet soon and before you celebrate your 85th birthday!


                         --Kieran O'Brien, Brisbane, Australia-- 

◎ We always enjoy to look at your reporting about Japan. During a few minutes we thought we were again in your country. And you know how we like Japan.
Next time add a small map ...
And we are sorry not to speak English fluently. But French people speak only French is'nt it ?
 
        -        --Marie-Claude et Pierre POUBEAU from Rambouillet, France---

               
We look forward to receiving your message (Click and send your comment, please)                                         

The temple established about 1200 years ago, has gathered many visitors and the faithful from the whole country through the year. There are many precious national or prefecture's important treasures such as “Mani-den “ with a wide platform for a broad view.

Onioi 'ceremony starts at the top of the mountain and then is held at Manieden. Leaving Rumi at Mani-den, Tak laboriously climbed up the steep and rugged mountain path to Hakusan Shrine at the top of the mountain

One day in January we visited the Temple Enkyoji at the top of Mt Shosha (370m high) in northern Himeji City. It was beautiful winter day but the iced mountain path was so slippery and we had to be very careful not to stumble and fall.

On our way home we visited another precious buildings such as a gigantic lecture hall where many monks have studied Buddhism and a dining hall where the movie "The Last Samurai" was located.

We enjoyed the magnificent view of the Bansyu plain and the city of Himeji.

At Mani-den ceremony started by sutra-chanting and many monks chanted Buddhist scriptures. Rumi admired the beauty harmony of chanting. Then the oni dancing service was held again. This time there was something dignified in the dancing against the gorgeous Buddhist structures.

Oni-oi

Many visitors gathered at the small, humble hall. Children also joined in the event and watched the traditional performance.

The ceremony held on Mt. Shosha, is not the one to drive the devil out but the ceremony to bring good fortune. So oni here has been believed as the servant of the gods and has the gentle expression..

After the ceremony oni took a brief rest and climbed down to Mani-den. Tak found the handsome young men behind the mask.