We can find several shops where the owners have made their own likeness into mascot-like characters. Here are two examples from Osaka. One for a shop for a ramen ship, the other for a shop that specializes in “vitality” drinks.
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―」（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.
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
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.
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.
I recently joined the The Society of Living Folklore.
The Dontosai Festival is held every January 14th. The previous year’s talismans and amulets are ritually burnt. Exposing themselves to the cold, a number of men and women parade to the shrine to receive the blessings of the enshrined deities (photo: Sendai, Miyagi prefecture).
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)
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, 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.
I recently joined the The Society for MINGU of Japan. Mingu （民具）refers to those articles that we use in our daily lives, in other words, material culture.