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.
Tiny pillows are dedicated on top of the offertory box.
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.
Votive prayer tablets. Many with wishes for a good catch or success in business.
An offering of a three dimensional replication of a ship for an abundant catch.
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
As seen from this example from Toyama, a stone roadside shrine has been completely covered with a straw matting and a plastic blue sheet to protect it from snow during the winter months.
Whereas in many parts of Japan the roadside statues of the Buddhist saint named “Jizo” is left open to the elements, the people of the Hokuriku region (Fukui, Ishikawa and Toyama prefectures) express their strong devotional ties to Buddhism by wrapping up the Jizo statues and shrines.
On the drive leading up to a farmhouse sits an old, moss covered stone shrine enshrining a stone statue of Jizo. The usually exposed front is covered with straw matting to protect the inside statue from the winter snow. This will be removed with the change of the seasons.
A closeup of the above photo. Even care is taken to ensure that Jizo is able to see out of the shrine by cutting a small window in the protective covering. Perhaps this is evidence of the local people’s strong affection for Jizo.
On February 3rd in homes throughout Japan, family members will walk through the rooms of their home throwing beans (mamemaki) in a purifying ritual. While tossing the beans family members will shout oni wa soto, fuku wa uchi (demons out, good luck in) as if to bring about fortuitous luck in the upcoming year. It is common for one person to
A bag of beans. While in some parts of Japan the beans used are soybeans, in the Tohoku region peanuts are commonly used. Pictured here is a bag of soybeans.
play the role of the oni (demon) in this ritual. Often the father of the household is relegated to this job. During this period of seasonal change, like others, was believed to have been a time when evil spirits and monsters gathered, and caused plagues and other disasters. Family members will also eat an amount of beans in accordance with their individual ages sometimes adding one. The addition of one bean may be a symbolic assurance of living another year or may reflect kazoedoshi (a traditional method of counting age in which the one year is counted for time in the womb). Beans are eaten so as to ward off evil and increase resistance to illness.
When purchasing beans at a store, a paper mask of an oni (demon) is provided as well.
An article (in Japanese) examining the one villages shrine system was previously published in Tohoku University’s journal The Bulletin of the Tohoku Culture Research Room.
This is a questionnaire given to university students. (2017 respondents added) 大学生に対するアンケート. （2017年の回答者の追加）
① Do you have a religious belief/faith? あなたは「信仰」をお持ちですか？ Continue reading
This is a questionnaire given to university students. 大学生に対するアンケート.
Do you agree with the following: あなたの意見は、次のような考え方と一致しますか.
- Deities reside in mountains and rivers, trees and plants and the like. 山や川、草や木にはカミが宿っている.
- If you do not purify (bless) automobiles, boats, airplanes and the like an accident will occur. 自動車や船、飛行機などはお祓いをしないと事故が起こる.
- The rice deity resides in the rice plant. 稲には稲のカミがいる.
- The deity of the rice paddy resides in the rice fields. 田園には田のカミがいる.
- Calamity will befall you (you will be cursed) if you mistreat or kill animals. 動物をいじめたり殺したりするとたたりがある.
- Calamity will befall you (you will be cursed) if the spirit/soul of those who have died (the dead) are not given prayers and offerings. 亡くなられた方（死者）の霊魂に供養しないとたたりがある.
- Nature has a “life” and is itself living. 自然は「いのち」をもって生きている.
- Everything on earth exists to be used (to serve) humans. 地球上の全てのものは人間に利用されるためにある.
- People are one part of nature. 人間も自然の一部である.
- It’s possible to have a strong attraction to anime characters bordering on love. アニメ・ゲームなどのキャラクターに大きな魅力として感じ、恋に近い感情を抱くことはあり得る.
The highly successful anime “Your Name” (Highest worldwide grossing anime film) has given birth to a new anime pilgrimage. Fans astutely discerned the real-world places that were drawn into this anime production. They then quickly embarked on a journey to some of the sites. Thus inaugurating what fans term as a seichi “holy/sacred site”. One such place that gained the attention of fans is Suga Shrine (須賀神社) in Tokyo’s Shinjuku ward.
An article (in Japanese) titled “Examining the Modern Pilgrimage: Anime and Games Give Birth to Sacred Places” has been earlier published in the Folklore Society of Japan’s journal “Nihon Minzokugaku (Japanese Folklore)” Vol. 51.
「現代巡礼考―アニメ・ゲームから生まれた聖地―」 という論文を日本民俗学会の『日本民俗学』 第 283号に載せることが出来ました。ここで、改めて紹介します。
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.