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…

 

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.

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The temple priests can provide a religious service for those suffering from some ailment and/or proscribe the purchase of  omamori お守り (religious charms). However, it appears that many of those suffering from cancer choose to offer a prayer on an ema (wooden votive prayer tablet, pronounced “eh-mah”). On the ema they write their name, age, address, and optionally a written prayer. Moreover, they indicate the place or places which are affected by marking a diagram of the body. Instruction from the temple suggests that they circle rather than blacken in the affected areas of the body. In the case where the illness (cancer) has spread throughout the body they are instructed to simply write “whole body”.

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Looking through the ema on display at the temple I was unable to find any not mentioning cancer, although there may be some. The sheer number of ema offered at the temple attests to the fact that illness, in this case cancer, is not as uncommon as we might want to believe. And although many petitioners are older, being in their 60s, 70s or 80s, those in their 20s and 30s were also represented. Notwithstanding that the majority affected were adults, there were also prayers made by and on behalf of children. Cancer does not discriminate between men and women, the old and the young.

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When I read through the prayers of all these people, I felt compelled to add my own silent prayer for their quick recovery. And although I was saddened to envision their suffering, I was also encouraged. And this is perhaps one message that might be conveyed through this folk custom of offering prayers to “stifle cancer”: a collective message of perseverance and hope.

Truck Art デコトラ

The truck is king of the road in Japan. And there is a special breed of truck that is both distinctively fearsome, yet elegant: kind of like Las Vegas on wheels. These trucks are called decotora, which is a melded abbreviation of the words “decorated” and “truck”.  Decotora can be seen all throughout Japan though it is said that the original decotora was driven by a trucker from Aomori prefecture.

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A burdensome amount of of glittering chrome with protruding attachments excitingly transforms the standard factory issue body. Many of the trucks look like they could have been used in the Road Warrior. At night many light up like a marquee due to a heavy compliment of exterior lighting in various colors.  And the rough bass rumbling sound that emerge from their mufflers make there presence known before they can be seen.

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Accessorizing these rolling behemoths requires a significant financial investment. As I heard from the men and women who drive decotora, the added weight of the decorations pulls down the gas mileage greatly, adding to their expense. Needless to say, the customization of these trucks goes far beyond practicality. So why do they make them? To borrow folklorist Simon J. Bronner’s words, they are a “public show of labor”*.  This is true in the sense that truckers drive to earn the money which is then invested into their trucks,  and also in that conceivably a considerable amount of creative effort is put into designing a decotora, and then finally there is the actual physical act of labor that goes in to customizing these rigs.

*Simon J. Bronner, Grasping Things: Folk Material Culture and Mass Society in America (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2005), p.130.

In the decorations of these tricked out rigs we may find many auspicious symbols which is of personal interest to me as a religious folklorist. On the back door of these two trailers are images of fortuitous deities. On the right truck are painted the Seven Gods of Good Luck; on the left are Daikoku and Ebisu (two members of the Seven Gods of Good Luck). These images are believed to bring fortune (in business) and protection when driving, from traffic accidents and the like.t-shichifukujin

The door design of a frog is another example. A frog in Japanese is ka-e-ru, which has the same pronunciation with the word for “to return home”. This play on words coupled with the Chinese characters buji (safely, without incident) written on the back of the frog means “to return home safely”.  This frog image therefore acts like a talisman to protect the driver from accidents. t-frogemblem

This decoration extending from the side of the cab has written koi ni koi shite (“fall in love with love”)  reveals the romantic side of the driver.

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This is a Toyota van all tricked out.  ↓

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These are two popular singers, Ayumi Hamasaki on the back door, and Yazawa Eikichi. It is not unusual to see decotora painted in this fashion. The owner has likely chosen to emblazon their images out of a sense of appreciation or reverence as a fan. Some drivers have explained that these images are also thought to bring good luck.

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2016 学会発表 Conference Presentation

I presented at the 75th Annual Meeting of the Japanese Association of Religious Studies on September 11, 2016. The translated title of my presentation is as follows: “Are Japanese Youth Self-centered?  A Look at the Supplications of Anime Pilgrims (Fans)”

私は2016年9月11日に日本宗教学会の第75回学術大会 (於 早稲田大学)にて 「若者たちは利己主義者なのか―アニメ聖地巡礼者の祈願を事例に―」というタイトルで発表しました。