Story – Vanishing Goddess
We are going to introduce various roles of Japanese women in which they have played throughout Japanese history from ancient times until today with photography and music.
According to the oldest myth in Japan, a Goddess named “Amaterasu” had shone light on Japan and led the country as the Goddess of the Sun from ancient times. The world was at peace for an extensive period of time. It is a rare case in all of world history that The Sun God was a woman like Amaterasu.
It has been said that the original Japanese culture was started during the Jomon Period, lasting from around 16,500 years ago until about BC 1,000 years. The Period lasted more than 10,000 years.
No weapons dating back to that period have been found from archaeological excavations. It seems that the Japanese were leading very peaceful lives during this time without battles for more than 10,000 years. The women in the Period wore clothes with colorful patterns and had many colorful necklaces, earrings and bracelets. It is believed that these ornaments were made by men. Given that it has been found that men had ornaments only around their waist, we can surmise that women were treated very nicely and with great respect.
Many female shaped clay figures have been discovered and it appears that they were used in prayer or religious rituals. Women were respected as spiritual entities, directly connected to the Gods and Nature.
Queen Himiko appeared early in the 3rd Century. With her psychic ability she ruled the Country according to the messages she received from the Gods and from Nature. After her death, her brother tried to lead the Country but he was unable to do it well. So Himiko’s female disciple became Queen and restored peace in the Country.
In Japan, the worship and respect shown toward women which began in ancient times continued uninterrupted up until the early 8th Century.
From the introduction of Confucianism into Japan until the Warring Period
Around the 4th Century, the virtues of Confucianism from China started to affect Japan and the idea of “male chauvinism” began to spread. Disturbances and wars in the Medieval Period were followed by the Feudal Periods which ruled the Country with power. It was the time of Bushido, the ethical code of the ruling Samurai Class. This period can be called “the era of men.”
The status of women was lowered and they were regarded as belonging to men. During the period Shirabyoshi who were maidens in the service of Shinto rituals and Buddhist services, who sang and danced, appeared in the 12th Century. They offered dance and songs to the Gods and Buddha Their dancing and singing were the origin of the Japanese traditional performing arts known as Noh and Kabuki. Their performances attracted the Emperor, Nobles and Samurai, who became their lovers. However, their status was not looked down upon as they were mediums of God or Buddha and they were treated as sacred beings. It was the time of many wars and great bloodshed in Japan, and there were a lot of Shirabyoshi’s from noble families. They were girls dressed like men wearing hunting suits, Tate-Eboshi which were tall straight hats worn by court nobles, and sometimes they carried long swords.
After the Warring Periods, the Tokugawa Shogunate unified the whole of Japan and established a time of peace from the early 17th century until the mid – 19th century when the Samurai government ended.
During this peaceful time, Shirabyoshi became either Geisha who specialized devotedly in the performing arts, or they became the highest-class courtesans called “Tayu” in Kyoto and “Oiran” in Edo (Tokyo).
Geisha and Oiran are often fantasized or prejudiced by foreigners believing that they are entertainers for men or prostitutes. However there was a reason that these women had to become Geisha or Oiran, either to save their family or they were forced into it by abduction. They could not leave the Kuruwa, the place where they stayed or were held until they had finished repaying all of the debt they owed.
Not only was great beauty required, but also a very high intelligence and an excellent mastery of the Japanese traditional arts were necessary to become an Oiran.
Oiran enjoyed and competed for their gorgeous fashion. They were the fashion leaders and were idols who represented “Iki”, the aesthetic and moral ideals of urban commoners. Iki means “high spirit” or “high heart.” It referred to the way in which a high-spirited person talked, behaved, or dressed. Iki also has a sensual and elegant connotation when it is applied to the description of a woman. A woman with plenty of iki in her heart is high-spirited and graceful in her conduct, always willing to sacrifice herself for the man she loved. This behavior, on the other hand, sometimes indicated resignation and consequently a sense of sadness and loneliness emerged. Despite her gorgeousness on the surface, Oiran carried the sorrow that they could not get out of the Kuruwa freely.
Only the highly ranked Samurai could interact with them. Because their conversations with them sometimes touched upon highly political secrets, they were banned from interacting with outside people. However, when they fell in love with one of their confidants seriously, they suffered from the reality that they could not be with the man as they wished because of their restricted circumstances. Oirans were very religious and prayed hard to the Amida Buddha, praying that they could have a free life when they were reborn.
Modern Times until Today
After the Shogunate regime ended in the 19th century, Japan promoted industrialization. Since then Japan experienced wars and women suffered from loss of their loved ones.
According Legend, the mythical bird the Phoenix never dies, it arises from the ash of volcanoes. Just like the Phoenix there is hope that the sufferers will arise from the devastating earthquake of 3 – 11 in Japan.
The Photograph depicts the Modern Goddess standing in the snow with the smoke from the volcano billowing behind her. She is praying for Japan’s recovery from the ash of the volcano like the Phoenix. Just as the Ancient Goddesses prayed for happiness and peace for the people, the Modern Goddess is giving her prayer for peace to bring happiness to the people.
Throughout the long Japanese history, the length of time when Japanese women were forced to live under the dominance of men was about 1,500 years. On the other hand, the period of time Japanese women were the object of worship and respect (from the Jomon Period until the beginning of the era of Japanese male chauvinism) was about 15,000 years. Japanese women were enjoying their lives being worshiped as sacred and beautiful for ten times longer than that they were being suppressed.
Further, even while they were living in the shadow of men, they built the foundation of the traditional Japanese performing arts and developed the Japanese aesthetic sense. They played very important roles in Japanese history and in the development of Japanese culture.
From now and into the future, we really hope that Japanese women will again lead lives as Shining Sun Goddesses as before in ancient times. We truthfully pray that a peaceful world will be realized so that Japanese women can continue to perform their graceful and sacred charms which was valued and praised for 15,000 years in their early history. We would like to conclude this very special event with a sincere prayer for peace.
Message from DreamQuest Records and DreamQuest Sound
“Forever Temple Light”
There is an eternal light which has been burning continuously for 1,200 years at the mountain temple in Kyoto, one of the original places where Buddhism was established in Japan. The monks never failed to keep the light burning through wars and natural disasters throughout history. The Olympic flame is a symbol of peace which connects the hearts of people all over the world. Just like the Olympic flame, we feel that the eternal temple light in Kyoto also symbolizes our hope and desire for peace. Now we pray for it in our sacred song, “Forever Temple Light.”
Message from “DreamQuest”
We started our DreamQuest activity to connect the people’s heart with music and arts to help realize a world where everyone can be happy and fulfilled in his or her life. We believe that everyone can be connected at the bottom of our hearts by performing unconditional love regardless of the difference in cultural or religious backgrounds.
In order to realize such a World, we advocate from the perspective of femininity which is the theme of this show that all men and women should value our feminine energy more when we are interacting with others. All of us have elements of masculinity and femininity inside of us. Not only women but also men can and will engage their feminine energy when they trust, love and live together peacefully with others. In the present world, we are all performing with too much masculine energy that is characterized by power, suspicious and competition. By doing so, we are creating a divided, exclusive and stressful world. By balancing the performance of masculine and feminine energy well, we can create a more connected and peaceful world based on love, trust and symbiosis. We know that it is not so easy to realize such a world, but we think it is important for us to believe that we can make it happen and to continue praying hard for it.
“Key to the Japanese Heart and Soul” (1996) Kohdannsha International.
Copyright:Naoya Yamaguchi & Kumiko Kajitani