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Mount Atago, Shiba, No. 21 in One Hundred Famous Views of Edo

Catalogue Description:
Scene of the "Messenger of Bishamon" on this third day of the New Year. He is the central actor in the "Heaping Rice Ceremony" performed at the Atago Shrine, dressed in a costume designed for the new year. In real life, he is the proprietor of the Atagoya teahouse at the top of the hill. He wears a ceremonial robe over which are draped strips of kelp which will later be chopped up and according to custom be distributed to shrine believers for the making of a tea guaranteed to ward off colds. He is wearing an upside-down basket on his head, with a citrus fruit and a helmet ornament. Strips of sacred paper are draped from the neck and he is holding an immense rice paddle, all tokens of the martial spirit of Bishamon-ten (one of the four guardian deities of Buddhism as well as one of Japan's Seven Gods of Happiness). At the end of the ceremony, the messenger descends the eighty-six stone steps at the foot of the hill, and greets the clergymen there who are eating from "heaping rice" bowls. Striking his giant paddle, he instructs his audience, "eat, eat." After their reply, "we will, we will," he returns up the steps and re-enters the gate of the shrine. (By custom he was required to walk balanced on high single-toothed clogs.)


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