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。



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

This is a questionnaire given to university students.  大学生に対するアンケート.

Question  問い

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

② Do you have a religion? あなたは「宗教」をお持ちですか?

③ Do you believe in existence of kami (gods)? あなたは「神」の存在を信じますか?

④ Do you believe in the existence of the soul after death?  あなたは「霊魂」の存在を信じますか?

⑤ Do you believe in yūrei (ghosts)?  あなたは「幽霊」の存在を信じますか?


Survey of 44 Tohoku Gakuin University undergraduates (2017)

回答 Answer:  はい Yes  /  いいえ No

① 9% / 91%

②  9% / 91%

③ 75% / 25%

④ 70% / 30%

⑤ 73% / 27 %


Survey of 26 Tohoku Gakuin University undergraduates (2016)

①  4% / 96%

②   12% / 88%

③  69% / 31%

④  73% / 27%

⑤  73% / 27 %


Survey of 156 Kanazawa University undergraduates (2009)

① 25% / 75%

②  31% / 69%

③  51% / 49%

④ 60% / 40%

⑤  51% / 49%


Survey of 105  Kanazawa University undergraduates (2008)

① 28% / 72%

②  33% / 67%

③   42% / 58%

④  66% / 33%

⑤  56% / 43%

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)


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…