New Article Published 新しい論文

A new article (in Japanese) titled “Where Religion and Politics Converge: The Case of the ‘Election Shaman'” has just been published in the Folklore Society of Tohoku’s journal “Tohoku Folklore” Vol. 51.

「選挙と信仰の接点―『選挙カミサマ』と呼ばれる民間巫者を事例に―」という論文を東北民俗の会の『東北民俗』 第51輯に載せることが出来ました。

論文の抜粋

平成十五年(二〇〇三)の秋夜、ある村で、筆者が元村長であるM(当時八十歳)と二人でビールをちびちび飲みながら、彼の息子の選挙事務所で、息子が出馬した村会議員選挙の結果発表を待っていた。その選挙事務所は元村長のファミリービジネスである米穀店の米倉庫だった。コンクリートブロックで建てられた倉庫の奥には、息子の笑顔が写された選挙ポスター数枚と「必勝祈願」と衆議院議員などから書かれる為書きが貼ってある。壁に沿って置かれたテーブルには、片目を入れた大きなダルマが載せられてあった。選挙事務所には、供え物や神具の飾られた祭壇があると想像していた筆者は、「なぜ祭壇がないの」と尋ねると、選挙ポスターと為書きに指をさしながら、「それが祭壇」だと楽しそうに答えた。この話の中から、思い掛けない情報が転がり込んできた。選挙事務所を開く際には、Kという地元のカミサマ(民間巫者(ふしゃ))に祝詞や、お祓いを依頼するという。このことに筆者は強い関心をもった・・・

「選挙と信仰の接点―『選挙カミサマ』と呼ばれる民間巫者を事例に―」(Where Religion and Politics Converge: The Case of the “Election Shaman”)『東北民俗』 第51輯, 2017年6月17日, 85-94.

Questionnaire: Afterlife 大学生に対するアンケート(死後の存在について)

Question: When a person dies what sort of being does he/she become?  (Respondents allowed to choose multiple answers)

# of respondents / % / response

13  (40.6%)  Becomes nothing

13  (40.6%)  A hotoke (a departed soul)

13  (40.6%)  A protector who resides at the grave or butsudan (family Buddhist altar)

13  (40.6%)  A soul that continues to live even without the body and flesh

12  (37.5%)  A being which becomes one with the ancestors

4  (12.5%)  A being if not shown reverence causes misfortune and/or calamity

4  (12.5%)  Other

2  (6.25%)  A disciple of the Buddha

1  (3.13%)  Becomes a kami (divine being )

 

Survey of 32  Kanazawa University undergraduates

Date of Survey: December 12, 2008

Dousing the Evil Flame 米川の水かぶり

On January 12, 2017, I was witness to the Mizukaburi Festival of Yonekawa (米川の水かぶり) in the City of Tome, Miyagi prefecture. This is an annual festival which is said to be over 800 years old. Men enwrapped in a costume made of straw parade through the town dousing homes and businesses with buckets of water. They are acting as agents of a fire deity enshrined at the local temple. It is believed that this ritual action drives away the evil forces seeking to harm the community by sparking a flame, which in the extreme could be the seed of a conflagration engulfing the many wooden buildings that tightly line the streets (a major historical concern in Japan). Spectators yank on the straw of the costumes hoping to take some strands home, for it is believed to offer protective power, bringing good luck throughout the year.

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A Final Resting Place 針の安らぎの場

Just recently returned from Kamakura City (Kanagawa prefecture). On February 8th, at the Egaraten Shrine, the annual memorial service for needles (針供養 hari kuyo) was held. Women bring bent, rusted, broken, and otherwise exhausted needles to the shrine. One by one the participants gently prick the surface of a large, specially made tofu (bean curd) cake. Pressing their palms together, the women then offer a silent prayer for the repose of the souls of the needles, now at rest in the soft, soothing tofu. Gratitude is expressed for the needles, who busily assist in the work of the housewife, seamstress, and hobbyist, selflessly sacrificing their tiny steel bodies, even to the point where they collapse and break, hewn asunder.

The Curse of the Fugitive Samurai 落人の祟り

Below is an excerpt from my article The Curse of the Fugitive Samurai: A Look at Social Stratification and Conflict in Rural Japan (for details see my Publications 研究業績)

Introduction

The inhabitants of the inland village of Kogata situated in Japan’s Tōhoku region have for generations on end fought famine, flood, and fire in a climate that is widely-known as being less than hospitable. Their community along with its arable land is largely found wedged between thickly forested mountainous terrains. On the hilltops are the tobacco fields, and lined alongside the river that cuts across the village are the rice paddies on which the community’s few thousand residents have traditionally carved out a living. Today, less than 700 households form a village constituted of about thirty neighborhoods.

An entrance, or intrusion, into any given community by an “outsider” can be a cause of interest, concern, and possibly fear for the community’s inhabitants. Yoshida Teigo in his research on the “stranger” in connection to Japanese folk religion surmised that strangers are “unknown and unclassified” and therefore present a potential threat in both a “physical and mystical sense” (Yoshida 1981: 95). Such a thought-provoking appraisal of the relation held between, to borrow the words of Norbert Elias and John Scotson, “the established and the outsiders” leads us to ask, Is it possible for the outsider identity to linger on even though the outsiders themselves have become “known and classified,” being firmly entrenched within the social fabric of a community?

During the course of my research in Kogata, I discovered that in two neighboring hamlets a group of six households derived their status and authority from the peculiar circumstances surrounding their founding settlement in the village. They are known by the term Ochiudo (落人) which means fugitive samurai…

 

Speaking of everyday objects 民具と言えば

Speaking of everyday objects, at first I couldn’t figure out what these wood blocks  were used for. Located just outside the temple precincts of Eiheiji Temple in Fukui prefecture was a restaurant for temple visitors/tourists. On the brick facade facing out to the parking lot were these neatly displayed blocks. On the day in November when I visited, there were only a handful of tourists who had made the trip to the temple. And the restaurant was all but empty. So what were these blocks for?  As there were no tourist buses on that day, it was difficult for me to make the connection at first. Answer: homemade wheel chocks.