Monday, November 28, 2011
A Theory about Japanese Mikoshi Festivals
Many or most Japanese festivals feature "O'Mikoshi," but there are few theories as to why the Japanese (and not only the Japanese) are into carrying their gods around on stretchers. The theories I have seen, and agree with, stress unity, solidarity and cohesion (Takezawa, 1998) and prestige (there is a pecking order in who gets to carry the god, before whom: see Kalland, 1995). I respect both theories but here is my take, with thanks to my trainspotting son.
Normally the geographical fixed-ness of the Shinto sacred anchors the word view and society (c.f. theories that Japanese society is spacially organised: Bachnik & Quinn, 1994, Pilgrim 1995, and Nakane, 1970), so when the sacred starts to move on its mikoshi (beir, litter or palanquin) this signals the arrival of a topsy turvy, "liminality" (Turner, 1967) big-time. I suggest in this video that the mikoshi have the same attraction as trains. My son used to really love trains. Trains, with their moving frames of reference, teach us that movement is relative, nothing is stationary, unless something is sacred.
This blog represents the opinions of the author, Timothy Takemoto, and not the opinions of his employer.