Breaking Plates Festival – Horakuwari in Kyoto

May 3, 2013 Juju Kurihara 0 Comments

horakuwari 4At Mibu-dera (壬生寺) in Kyoto, three times a year they play a theatre called Mibu Dainenbutsu Kyogen (壬生大念仏狂言) to the public. Kyogen (狂言) is the oldest comedy theatre play in Japan. The play started in Kamakura period (鎌倉時代 1185-1333) by a Buddhist monk, Engakushonin (円覚上人 1223-1311).

In his era, Mibu-dera had lots of believers and the sermon was always full. So Engakushonin thought of a play that everyone could see it and would understand the lectures. It was about 700 years ago, when they didn´t have any good hi-fi stereo system. This was the beginning of Mibu Dainenbutsu Kyogen, also kown as Mibu san no Gan Den Den (壬生さんのガンデンデン/ Mibu´s Gan Den Den) among public.

horaku wari 1This festival is held three times a year, spring, autumn and on Setsubun in February. The one in spring was held on the 21st of April. The finale of the play is Horaku Wari  (炮烙割り), when the Kyogen actors break hundreds of ceramic plates by dropping from the stage.

Maybe in some country, breaking ceramic isn´t a so good thing. The other day I went to a house of a ceramic artist and his wife dropped one of the bowls he made. She was in shock, the daughter blamed her and the artist was disappointed. Perhaps it doesn´t give us as bad feeling as breaking a mirror but definitely breaking ceramic isn´t something you can proud of.

horaku wari 2


But Horoku Wari brings you good luck. People who wish to get rid of bud luck, write their wishes inside the plate and dedicated them to the temple first. Then during the spring festival season, 21st to 29th of April, those plates are broken for a good healthy life all through the year. Those plates are more than 5,000 and there are people behind who make those ceramic plate all year. 

All ceramic plates are made at a facility for mentally handicapped people and 12 people are taken place. Between them about 110 plates are made daily. It´s actually a full-time job during a whole year in order to complete people´s wish, and funny thing is that they make ceramic to be broken. It sounds to me an endless job.        


Mibu Dainenbutsu Kyogen play has no dialogues because Engakushonin invented this play for everyone to understand the Buddhist lectures without listening to the words. It means anyone can enjoy the play even you know zero Japanese and especially the play is a comedy, I´m sure you can have a lot of fun. 

This video is from this year´s festival. Breaking plates like this might give them such a satisfaction. Well at least to me!




More festivals in Japan

Oose Matsuri

Happy Easter

Summer festivals


Kanamara Matsuri

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