the Shouryoue


The Shouryoue (聖霊会) is held every year on the 22nd of April to commemorate the death of Shotoku Taishi (聖徳太子), a semi-legendary imperial regent credited with facilitating the spread of Buddhism and founding Shitennoji temple (四天王寺) in Osaka and Horyuji temple (法隆寺) in present day Nara.  This commemorative ceremony, which is over a thousand years old, features performances of ancient imperial court music (gagaku — 雅楽) and dance (bugaku – 舞楽).  (You can get a better idea of what this looks and sounds like by skipping to the video at the end of the post.)

I’ve wanted to photograph this event for a long time, ever since my friend Marié and I went to check it out and my LOMO ran out of film after only three shots, none of which were particularly worth keeping.  This time I brought my Voigtlander Bessa-L with 15mm Heliar  and my Voigtlander R2A with both 35mm Ultron and 75mm Color-Skopar.  Both cameras were loaded with that trustworthy standby, Fujifilm Superia 400.  Since I had been there before I knew a good place to stand to catch the parade as it approached the stage, but there’s no way to get near the stage itself without special access and even the 75mm wasn’t really large enough to capture any decent images from the stage area.

I stayed for about an hour, I think.  The ceremony lasts for several hours, but even on a bright and beautiful day there’s only so much standing still in a crowd that my legs can take.  It’s a wonderful event, and well worth going to see, but it’s important to get there early or you’ll spend the entire time standing on tiptoes trying to get a decent view of the stage.


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