Translation 翻訳: Prof. Mutsuhiko Matsuda’s “Occupational and Environmental Folklore”

The word seigyō 生業 translates as occupation, work, or living in English. I had the privilege of translating Prof. Mutsuhiko Matsuda’s paper based on his research into occupational folklore. The translated paper titled “Occupational and Environmental Folklore” has been published in the Japanese Review of Cultural Anthropology (Volume 19, Issue 2, 2018,  pp. 35-62).  Released September 4, 2019, it is now available online. PDF link

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Fishmonger selling in Himi, Toyama Prefecture. (Photo unrelated to article)

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Cattle breeders in Hachinohe, Aomori Prefecture. (Photo unrelated to article)

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Yamanokami Shrine 山神社

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The mountain goddess enshrined at Yamanokami Shrine in Miyagi Prefecture’s Misato Town is known far and wide for her efficacy in relation to childbirth. Women have long come to the shrine to borrow a tiny pillow which they take home to ensure an easy and uneventful, that is safe, delivery of their baby. They return the pillow after their child has been born. Many believe that the color of the pillow (red, white, and blue) correlates to the sex of the child, but the priest explained that from the perspective of the shrine the color has no such meaning. The display of phallic offerings in the anterior of the main building attests to the shrine’s strong connection to fertility. Alongside those is another point of interest, a stuffed bear, which is a curious but amusing artifact. During the summer, many visitors come to take a stroll through the multicolored hydrangea in the garden.

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Tiny pillows are dedicated on top of the offertory box.

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Conference presentation 学会発表

I presented at the 61th Annual Meeting of the Association for Indology and the Study of Religion on June 9, 2019 at Tenri University. The translated title of my presentation is as follows: “The People Searching for Happiness: A Case Study of the ‘Natsume Yujincho’ Anime Pilgrimage.

私は2019年6月9日に第61回印度学宗教学会学術大会(於 天理大学)にて「幸せを求める人たちー『夏目友人帳』の聖地巡礼を事例にー」というタイトルで発表しました。

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New Article: Votive Prayer Tablets 小絵馬

I have written an article offering a detailed analysis of one shrine’s koema 小絵馬,  small wooden prayer tablets. The article additionally provides a history of the research on koema that have focused not on illustrated prayers (as was traditional), but rather on written prayers, which is the form that predominates today. The article can be found in the Journal of Human Informatics which is published annually by The Institute for Research in Human Informatics at Tohoku Gakuin University. PDF link

Article: “A Comprehensive Survey of Small Votive Prayer Tablets” Journal of Human Informatics (人間情報学研究), Vol. 24, 2019, 15-34.

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Miho Shrine in Shimane 美保神社

Definitely worth visiting, Miho Shrine located in Shimane Prefecture is the main shrine for Ebisu, one of the Seven Gods of  Fortune. Ebisu, who is often pictured with a fishing rod in hand, brings luck to fishermen. The connection is strongly felt at Miho Shrine. The shrine was historically a stopping point for boats passing out to sea.

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Votive prayer tablets. Many with wishes for a good catch or success in business.

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Ritual blessing.

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An offering of a three dimensional replication of a ship for an abundant catch.

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Lost at sea 失せ物

Anchors, knives, and other tools, having fallen into the depths of the ocean water, present a problem for fisherman. It breaks the taboo against dropping metal objects into the sea, something that is likely to enrage Ryujinsama, the serpent like water deity. Laying on the bottom, reflecting light, these lost articles known as usemono 失せ物 could scare of the fisherman’s catch. So what to do? Renderings of the lost articles are drawn and offered at the local shrine in order to appease the protectorate deities of the sea.

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Shrine building.

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Hand drawn prayer offerings for a lost knife and hook are posted on the walls.

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Commonly lost objects are anchors. We also see that more than one object may be lost.  Note that the name of the ship is always written, but the dedicator’s name or the date are optional.

Hello Kitty Religious Goods ハローキティと宗教

Department store display for Sanrio’s Hello Kitty goods. Shinto-like elements: 1. Back display in the shape of votive prayer tablet (絵馬 ema) with a Shinto shrine bell to ring when making a prayer  2. Hello Kitty doll costumed as a shrine maiden (巫女 miko)  3. Small case with image of Hello Kitty as shrine maiden performing a purification ritual  4. Pen case for success in studying and passing exams  5. Votive prayer tablet for writing a wish

Hello Kitty Display

Hand and foot shrine 手足の神社

At the Mikata Ishi Kannon Shrine in Fukui prefecture, people offer prayers to cure various ailments connected to hands/arms and feet/legs. They write their names and prayers on minature wooden votives in the shape of an arm or leg. In the past they would have offered their own hand carved votive. But now the votives are supplied by the shrine. Crutches on display attest to the healing power of the enshrined deity. Some visitors even dedicated their prosthetic limbs.

Ishi Kannon Shrine

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