Geba (dismounting a horse as a manner) (下馬 (作法))

"Geba" means to dismount one's horse in order to salute in front of nobles, in the precincts of shrines and temples, or before entering a castle. In the same manner, getting out of a palanquin is called "gejo."

According to "Hososhiyo-sho" (a legal book compiled by the Sakanoue clan between the end of the Heian period and the early Kamakura period), which described rules and regulations on dismounting a horse depending on his court rank based on the Ritsuryo Law system (an ancient administrative law system in Japan), a person of the third court rank or the lower had to dismount his horse when he met any imperial prince on the road, and even any lower-ranked or younger person without Ikai (a court rank) had to follow the same manner toward the nobilities and the elderly. If such rules and regulations were not observed, the offenders are said to have been punished with whippings. It is not clearly known how long and to what extent these rules and regulations had been observed. However, this custom of dismounting a horse had surely existed as a courtesy during Buke-jidai (the feudal period), as described in "Teijo-zakki" (a book on ancient courtly traditions and etiquettes, written by Sadatake Ise in the Edo Period) that a person had to dismount his horse without fail when he encountered any person on a palanquin, or when he passed by a place where inuoimono (dog-hunting event, a skill of an archery), kasagake (archery competition on horseback), yabusame (the art of arrow shooting on horseback), and other arrow shooing competitions with omato and komato (big and small sized shooing targets) were being played, or when he went around a shrouded place for pleasure in hills and fields, or when he passed in front of shrines and temples, or when he passed in front of the gates of Sanshoku (three important offices), or when he passed through a place where people were enjoying river fishing or falconry or when an astringer bumped into a cormorant fisher, in each case no matter whom he met with were strangers or not. To visit the imperial court, needless to say, people had to dismount their horses or alight from their palanquins at Miyamon gate (a court gate), which manner was followed by visitors to shrines and temples.

In the Edo period, a "Geba-fuda" (a sign notifying horse riders that they are prohibited from entering the area indicated while mounted on a horse) was put up outside of a castle, and inside the castle, everybody except the shogun was, depending on their rank, obliged to dismount from their horse. For example, even imperial princes and other nobles ranked higher than Dainagon (a major councilor of state) had to get down from their palanquin at Chumon gate (an inner gate in the castle). At the end of the Edo period, this custom of dismounting a horse or getting down from a palanquin had once died out, but after the Meiji Restoration, the same system resumed in leap April, 1868, and lasted until 1879, going through some changes, at Kyujo (imperial palaces), Rikyu (imperial villas), various ministries and some temples and shrines. In various ministries, this system was left to people's convenience and collapsed in 1888.

Geba-fuda (a sign to notify prohibition to enter on horse)
The terms "Gejo" and "Geba" (dismounting a horse and alighting from a palanquin) can be seen in a document, but the term "Geba-fuda" (a sign to instruct Gejo and Geba) was not found. The origin of "Geba-fuda" is not known, but it was described in "The Great Tang Dynasty Record of the Western Regions" that, when Shakyamuni (Buddha) was preaching at Ryojusen Mountain, he put up Sotoba (a tall, narrow wooden tablet) to notify all nobles to get down from their palanquins or dismount their horses and all ordinary people not to enter into the area secured for his preaching. According to "Ichiwa Ichigen" (a book of essays written by Nanpo OTA in the late Edo period), the oldest Geba-hi (a monument with inscription of Geba) was put up in Takao by Gon-dai-sozu Eiyu (Junior Prelate Eiyu) in 1301. Geba-fuda (a bulletin board to notify prohibition to enter on horse) was put up outside of every gate of the Edo-jo Castle, and the same could be seen at shrines and temples. In August, 1869, Kyobusho (the Ministry of Religion) issued an ordinance for Jingu Shrine and other Kankoku Heisha (a general term for high-ranked shrines under direct control of the central government) to designate places to dismount a horse or to alight from a palanquin in their precincts when Imperial families would visit there. The government was so fastidious about dealing with Geba-fuda and how to write it that the way of painting Geba-fuda was conveyed inside Shoren-in Temple esoterically.

[Original Japanese]