Onomichi Minato Matsuri (Port Festival) – Part 2


This is a Shinto mikoshi (神輿), or portable shrine, which is only taken out of its small shed-type building (see below) during festivals like this one.  This particular mikoshi is the mikoshi of Hachiman Jinja (八幡神社). It isn’t something you normally get to see when you visit a shrine, as the main building where actual worship is performed is a larger one.  This building is only big enough to encase the mikoshi.



After watching the dance competition, we walked along the boardwalk at the water’s edge and checked out the various food stalls set up for the festival.  (The food is for another post.)  As we ate our snacks, we saw a mikoshi (portable shrine) being carried off down the street, away from the stage.  We went back to the stage area to witness the processional displays of various Onomichi-area shrines.  And what is the point of this exercise, you may well ask? Originally, it meant this:

“The essence of the procession . . . is the movement of the kami through the parish. This is accompanied by a symbolic transfer of the kami from the inner sanctuary to an ornate and gilded sacred palanquin {mikoshi) , which becomes temporarily the abode of the kami.”  Ono Sokyo,Shinto: The Kami Way (Rutland and Tokyo, 1962),p. 68.  (“kami” means “god”)

For much more detailed reading on the roots and possible significance of various aspects of the mikoshi processions, see this page:  http://nirc.nanzan-u.ac.jp/nfile/998

The teams of men displayed various types of mikoshi-carrying steps and calls (which are essentially work-chants – “hai-za” means “left-right”).  The swaying, swinging, and ringing of bells is supposed to amuse the god being carried inside.  To me, the most impressive display seemed to be the spinning of the mikoshi.  Unfortunately I couldn’t get any video of it, so you’ll have to settle for a description and a blurry photo.  Imagine a team of men carrying an excessively heavy and awkward burden on their shoulders that transform into one giant spin-the-bottle display, using the mikoshi as a fulcrum for a high-speed merry-go-round.  As if this wasn’t hard enough, try switching out people during the maneuver, because you can’t have a tired guy fall down and trip up the whole team.  That might make kami angry, instead of amused.  Besides, after you’re done running in circles, you might have to lift the whole mikoshi up with only one hand each…



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