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[Mikoshi--A Vehicle of God]

Fish shop owner:How are you doing, Vladimir-san?

Vladimir: I am doing fine. By the way, what is this thing on the poster?

Fish shop owner:That's called mikoshi, a portable Shinto shrine. It's time for summer festivals, you know!

Vladimir:What is mikoshi for?

Fish shop owner:In short, it is a vehicle of god.

Vladimir:A vehicle? Do you mean that god rides on this?

Fish shop owner:Yes. At the festival, god rides on the mikoshi and goes out to town. People carry the mikoshi through the town so that their guardian god can observe how everything is going and how local people are doing. If he finds any problems and sins, he purifies them before he goes back to the shrine. The purpose of the festival is to show appreciation to god for his protection of the town.

Vladimir:Now I see why the mikoshi is decorated so beautifully.

Fish shop owner:Right. Usually, mikoshi is colorfully decorated and looks like a miniature shrine building. But the style of mikoshi varies by shrines and regions. Some mikoshi carry a doll as well.

Vladimir:It looks like quite a big thing. Is it heavy to carry around?

Fish shop owner:It is. Some large mikoshi could weigh several hundred kilograms. Common size mikoshi is not that heavy but still requires many people to carry. Carriers hold one of the bars underneath the mikoshi, carry it on their shoulders, and parade through the town. Some parades have a tradition to include wild performances, such as roughly shaking the mikoshi or bumping it to another mikoshi. There are women's mikoshi and children's mikoshi as well.

Vladimir:Interesting.

Fish shop owner:Normally, carriers repeatedly shout a call, "wasshoi, wasshoi," to cheer each other on during the parade. The pattern of calling is often different by regions. It can be something like "soiya, soiya" or "dokkoi, dokkoi." In some regions, people use different calling patterns for different festivals. This month in Tokyo, there is a big summer festival known for a mikoshi parade that features many large mikoshi. I am sure you will enjoy the scale and exciting atmosphere of the festival.

Tokyo Tourism Info Event of the Month

Vladimir:That sounds really fun.

Fish shop owner:Many local communities also hold summer festivals this month. They are smaller but are fun to visit as well. Some of them have a mikoshi parade, in addition to bon-odori (bon dance) and street stalls. Our L'ESPACE town is also having a summer festival, and that's why I have put this poster here. I am going to carry the mikoshi, so you should come and see our parade!

Vladimir:Sure, I would love to.


[Who can carry mikoshi?]

Vladimir:So, who are allowed to carry the vehicle of god? Can I be a mikoshi carrier if I want?

Fish shop owner:Normally, mikoshi carriers are limited to local parishioners who live in the community that the shrine and its deity are guarding. Those shrine parishioners are called ujiko, and I am an ujiko of L'ESPACE Jinja Shrine. These days, however, some festivals allow visitors to carry the mikoshi. You might want to check with Kancho-san, the manager of the community center, as he is in charge of our festival.

Vladimir:Sure, I will do that.

Fish shop owner:Once experienced, many people say that they want to come back and carry mikoshi again. It is a great feeling to join other people and bring everybody's energy together.

Vladimir:Sounds exciting.

Fish shop owner:By the way, I just remembered that there is a festival in Tokyo you might be interested in:

Ikebukuro Fukuro Festival Omikoshi Omatsuri Party

Vladimir:An international mikoshi parade? That sounds perfect! I really want to try carrying a mikoshi. I will definitely go there. Thanks for the information.

Fish shop owner:Make some new friends and have fun!





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