Rissho Kosei-kai Oahu hosted a matoi camp June 7-12 2017. The camp was conducted by our Youth Group leaders Jarred Serrano and Joyce Manalo. We will be trained the attendees in the art of hoisting and twirling the matoi while marching in a parade. The training included the history of the matoi and how Rissho Kosei-kai uses the symbol of ancient Japanese firemen to encourage our members to enthusiastically perform during parades. Students learned the ritual of caring for the matoi as it relates to our Buddhist practices.
Camp participants were housed in the Pearl City church during the event with field trips around Oahu. The participants were able to exhibit their proficiency with the matoi while they performed during the Pan-Pacific Festival-Matsuri in Hawaii parade that marched down Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki.
History of the Matoi
In Edo Japan where there were many major fires due to the combination of wood and paper construction of homes, cooking fires, oil lamps and the density of the urban population. The citizens relied heavily on the organized gangs of Hikeshi (firemen). These men were appointed from construction workers because of their courage and swiftness. It was a great honor to be chosen as a Hikeshi to fight fires in your town. They were grouped into units to monitor & respond to fires within and near their district.
When the fire alarm sounded the nearest unit would rush to the scene and raise a Matoi (company standard) to encourage their Hikeshi on to put out the fire. Any other unit attending to assist in the fire would also bring and wave their own Matoi till the fire was extinguished. Each Matoi was unique to that unit with extraordinary engraving and painting. This symbol, along with elaborate motifs and characters that decorated the heavy jackets they wore identified the brigade of the owner.
To encourage each Hikeshi to do his best, a fireman from each fire company stood its standard atop the roof of a house on fire. Other members of the company would fight the fire desperately in order to prevent the standard from burning. It was a disgrace for the standard bearer to let go his hold of it even if consumed by fire. It was the matoi bearers desire to die together with the standard.
Matoi consists of a body called “toban” and “baren” or flaps hanging down from it that are made of paper or leather. The standard is about 2.4 meters high and weighs about 20 Kg.
What the matoi means to Rissho Kosei-kai
Rissho Kosei-kai has adopted the matoi to be used during a parade or matsuri. We feel that the spirit and enthusiasm that is used to hoist and twirl the matoi is symbolic of the way one should embrace life and the Buddhist teachings.