Kanda Myojin Shrine 神田明神

Kanda myojin chochin

Paper lanterns offered in prayer

Continue reading


Protecting the protector お地蔵を守る北陸

Jizo shrine (2)

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.

Jizo shrine

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.

Jizo shrine (closeup)

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.



Setsubun 節分

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

mame (Small)

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.








Inari the fox god 国分町の稲荷社

Inari the fox god (man praying)

Man prays to Inari on his way home from work.

Inari the fox god

Inari is prayed to for success in business and agriculture.


Article: Shrine system 論文:四十八社

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.

「島守四十八社にみる地域と信仰―三戸南郷村島守地区の事例から―」という論文を 『東北文化研究室紀要』に載せられました。ここで、改めて紹介します。

Continue reading


Mid-winter festival procession 真冬の祭り

DSCF0030 (3)

Festival goers bear smiles despite the wind and snow.

Continue reading


Dyad guardians at the crossroads 村を守る夫婦

towada giants

Male and female straw effigies stand guard at the entrance to a rural hamlet (Towada City, Aomori prefecture)


Makeover for Jizo 化粧するお地蔵

Decorated Jizo

A stone statue of the Buddhist saint Jizo (Ksitigarbha), who ventures into hell to rescue lost souls and protect children, in a cemetery on Mt. Koya (Koyasan) Wakayama prefecture.


Watchful deity 田を見守る神

27june2006 028 (2)

Small shrine looking over the rice paddy (Tsugaru Region, Aomori Prefecture).


Questionnaire: Life after Death 大学生に対するアンケート(あの世について) Updated!

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)

Question  問い

① Do you have a religious belief/faith? あなたは「信仰」をお持ちですか? Continue reading


Questionnaire: Where they dwell 大学生に対するアンケート(どこに宿る)

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.

Question  問い

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. The rice deity resides in the rice plant.  稲には稲のカミがいる.
  4. The deity of the rice paddy resides in the rice fields.  田園には田のカミがいる.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Nature has a “life” and is itself living.  自然は「いのち」をもって生きている.
  8. 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.
  9. People are one part of nature.  人間も自然の一部である.
  10. 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.

Continue reading


The Votive Art of the “Your Name” Anime Pilgrimage 『君の名は』のアニメ絵馬(痛絵馬)

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.

Continue reading


Article about Anime Pilgrimages アニメ・ゲーム聖地巡礼についての論文

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。

Continue reading


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。

Continue reading


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 Continue reading


Dousing the Evil Flame 米川の水かぶり

img_2586On 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. Continue reading


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 (荏柄天神社), the annual memorial service for needles (針供養 hari kuyo) was held. Continue reading


Article: The Curse of the Fugitive Samurai 論文: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  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. Continue reading


The “Cancer Stifling Temple” がん封じ寺


In Mikawa City, Aichi Prefecture stands a temple named Muryoji 無量寺, which is said to have been established during the Heian Period (794-1185). It is widely known as a place that provides efficacy toward the act of fujiru 封じる (sealing, suppressing, blocking, throttling) against some negative aspect in our lives, for example, ending habits such as gambling or smoking. This temple is alternatively named  ganfuji-no-tera (the “Cancer Stifling Temple”) because of the belief in its power to cure or control illness. Continue reading