Triffie Axworthy

Christ’s Hospital School, 2017

Triffie Axworthy

Christ’s Hospital School, 2017

In 2017, Triffie Axworthy travelled to Japan with the help of the Traverse Trust Travel Award. During this time she went to Nabano no sato (a huge winter lights illumination in Nagashima), discovered Kabuki and went to a Noh theatre performance.

Triffie discovered Kabuki theatre, attending a performance in which the actors performed an ancient play about two men who make a pilgrimage from Edo (old Tokyo) to Ise. The costumes were traditional Japanese dress, and each man had black lines drawn from their eyes to elongate them.  She found the performance to be incredibly expressive and at times, hilarious. They also included the audience into their play too, as part of the final battle scene, they played a mini dodge-ball style game, and they encouraged them to throw ohineri (small white tissue paper tokens) during the show to demonstrate support and enjoyment.

She then went to a Noh theatre performance and visited some shrines, including Atsuta, one of the largest in Japan. That morning she was also woken up by a procession of monks from the nearby temple at Endoji. The Monk's son became a monk himself on that day so they were celebrating the occasion. Attending part of the ceremony, she watched as cold water was splashed over the young man's head as a rite of initiation into monk-hood.

“We started talking, her in fragmented English, and I in even more broken Mandarin. As usual the people surrounding us, those in the seats behind us or stood in the aisle, jostled and craned to get a look at this laowai.“

Coinciding with the blossoming of plum trees, Triffie joined a Shodo (Japanese calligraphy/drawing) class where she painted the Kanji for 'the coming of spring'. This time was spent going deeper and deeper into Japanese traditional culture.

“I went to Atsuta Shrine two more times, including its museum which has a pair of shoes worn by a kami. On top of this, I visited Osu, an area surrounding the temple of Osu Kannon and discovered a small shrine, which I hope to draw at some point. It had many statues of horses, which are viewed as sacred according to Shinto belief. I also dressed up kimono, while doing a presentation at the guesthouse about my project!“

The day of her presentation, Triffie went to Hadaka Otoko Matsuri (Naked Man Festival) a shinto festival which entails a 'lucky man' (completely naked) trying to run through a crushing crowd of men (naked except for their traditional Japanese underpants, and drunk on sake) to the sanctity of the main shrine of Inazawa (the town where this takes place). He is showered with ice-cold water, brought in by ecstatic runners, almost continually. The idea is that he gives people good-luck, by taking their sins and bad luck away from them and giving them purity. Her studies in Shintoism suddenly became a lot deeper around this time as she discovered Nagoya International Centre library which harbours a whole section on Shinto (as well as Murakami and Yoshimoto).

The following month she walked Kumano Kodu and went on an excursion to Osu where she attended dance performances, walked to Sakae Station, Nagoya Science Museum and a sunset-lit park outside Nagoya Castle.

“This month I had my first ever experience walking the Kumano kodo. It was beautiful, I'm looking forward to walking it next month so much! Some friends from the guesthouse took me there, it was a long drive (about 8 hours there and back) but it was worth it. I also saw a Samurai performance! It was breathtaking, they used the real swords, and fought with such skill and ease it was like a dance.“

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