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Japan – Mikoshi 神輿 Parade at Yushima Tenjin

Yushima Tenjin - Mikoshi ParadeI was fortunate enough to chance upon a mikoshi 神輿 parade when I was at Yushima Tenjin for its Plum Blossom Festival. Yushima Tenjin - Mikoshi ParadeA mikoshi 神輿 is a divine palanquin or portable Shinto shrine which transports a deity while moving between main shrine and temporary shrine during a festival or when moving to a new shrine. During festivals, they bring the mikoshi around the neighbourhood to bring blessings to the area.Yushima Tenjin Plum Blossom FestivalSaying a prayer before the mikoshi procession. People sign up to be mikoshi bearers as they believe they can get a bountiful harvest or blessings for the year.Yushima Tenjin - Mikoshi ParadeAnd off goes the parade. Such processions usually start and end at a Shinto shrine.Yushima Tenjin - Mikoshi ParadeAs they parade down the street, mikoshi bearers will shout a loud chant to encourage themselves to carry a palaquin that can weigh over a tonne. There are 4 different styles of shouldering, all with a different chant. The beareres may also toss the mikoshi to ‘amuse’ the diety inside.Yushima Tenjin - Mikoshi Parade
The most common method of shouldering in Japan is “Hira-katsugi 平担ぎ” where the beareres shout “wasshoi わっしょい,” and may or may not toss the mikoshi. For the “Edomae style | 江戸前” which is seen at the Asakusa Sanja Festival, bearers shout “say ya, soi ya, sah, sorya” and sway the mikoshi rapidly.Yushima Tenjin - Mikoshi Parade“Dokkoiドッコイ ” shouldering style is seen in Shonan in Kanagawa Prefecture where the mikoshi is moved up and down rhythmically, and more slowly than in the Edomae style. Bearers shout “dokkoi dokkoi dokkoi sorya” and there is a song called a “jink” (lively song).

Multiple mikoshi is used for the “Odawara style 小田原担ぎ where the mikoshis meet and run in a “Holy Dash”, shouting “oisah…korasah…koryasah” and there is a song called a “Kiyari” chant. Instead of swaying the mikoshi, it is moved from side to side and turning corners at full speed.Yushima Tenjin - Mikoshi ParadeYushima Tenjin - Mikoshi ParadeYushima Tenjin - Mikoshi Parade

Yushima Tenjin - Mikoshi ParadeWhat caught my attention were these men in traditional fundoshi (loincloth).Yushima Tenjin - Mikoshi ParadeAt 10 degrees celsius – don’t you feel cold?! *feeling shy*Yushima Tenjin - Mikoshi ParadeYushima Tenjin - Mikoshi ParadeThe palanquins return to Yushima Tenjin after the procession. It was an interesting cultural experience that I appreciated. Do try to catch one too the next time you visit Japan.