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)

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Lift a stone, prove your strength 力石

An older form of entertainment that is now unseen in Japan, was the lifting of heavy stones during a festival. Put simply a test of strength. The rocks come in various sizes, but generally they are all called chikara ishi 力石, literally “strength stones.” I had hear from one older man that the test of strength in his village was to lift the stone up on the shoulders and roll it around the neck three times. But we can imagine that some tests involved carrying or throwing the stone a certain distance as well. This was a popular sport in older times, but now it is often difficult to locate the stones that were used. Even the locals have forgotten and sometimes put the stones to other uses. But if you look carefully sometimes you can still find them at Shinto shrines.

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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.

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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。

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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.