Tokyobling's Blog

Shitaya Jinja Matsuri – Handing Over the Omikoshi

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on May 15, 2014

While most shrines have a dedicated omikoshi, essentially a mobile shrine actually housing the kami (or god spirit) of the shrine, many of them also have separate omikoshi for the different neighborhoods under the protection of the shrine. Naturally the honor of actually carrying the main omikoshi of the shrine is huge and so as was the case with the Shitaya Shrine Matsuri which took place last weekend, all the neighborhoods where it passed through took turns carrying it. The handover of one neighborhood to the next is the most elaborate and intense part of the ceremony and the most fun to watch. The neighborhood headman (or head woman, it changes) will take his position at the top and use a pair of hyoshigi (拍子木), two wooden blocks tied together with a rope. The blocks are banged together to make a simple and effective signal able to carry over the noise of the festival.

Together with this omikoshi there was also a horse ridden by a priest of the shrine. I don’t think I have met many horses in my life that were as cool and relaxed as this one! Nothing would phase it, even being surrounded by hundreds of cheering men!

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