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 9.神輿の点検
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神輿うんちく学13
外国人と神輿・英文 文:アンドリュー・カニング
(東京大学・外国人研究生)
Shouldering the mikoshi: A survival kit /Andrew Conning

To a foreigner, a mikoshi[1] procession may seem like an archaic religious ceremony, an attractively old-fashioned but somewhat odd survival in the 21st century. Most people participating in a local festival would be able to tell you that the ostensible significance of the ritual is indeed a religious one: the local deity surveys the neighborhood and confers blessings upon it. But in reality, a mikoshi procession today is more a social than a religious event, one that that serves a purpose still meaningful in our own time:  to highlight the identity and solidarity of the community[2]. For a foreigner who wants to take part in Japanese community life today, there's hardly a better way to do it than help carry a mikoshi.

I have shouldered the mikoshi in my neighborhood festival in Tokyo each of the past two years, and I plan to do it again this year. One of the neighbors I got to know better through this experience turned out to be a true mikoshi aficionado, and later invited me to come to see where many of the mikoshi used in the Kanto region are born ? at the Kamakura workshop of Mr. Akiyasu Furuya, whose website you are now browsing. In exchange for initiating me into the secrets of mikoshi assembly, Mr. Furuya asked me to share with you a few tips on how to gain access to, survive, and hopefully enjoy the experience of carrying the mikoshi in a real Japanese festival.

Getting invited
How does a foreigner get a chance to participate in carrying the mikoshi? After all, bearing the mikoshi on one's shoulder[3] has traditionally been a privilege reserved for insiders only ? even a festival enthusiast living in the next district would be firmly turned away[4]. The key of course is to establish one's status as a long-term resident of one's neighborhood and to build rapport with the people to whom the neighborhood means the most. It helps to patronize local stores and to participate in other neighborhood events besides the festival, such as the litter pick-up day, where

[1] Mikoshi (神輿): a special litter or "portable shrine" built for carrying around the symbolic representation of the local tutelary deity (ujigami: 氏神). The deity resides inside a miniature shrine building carried on horizontal poles.
[2] Bestor, Theodore. Neighborhood Tokyo. Stanford, CA: Stanford, 1989, p. 226.
[3] The Japanese language has a special word for "bearing (something) on one's shoulder": katsugu (担ぐ).
[4] Bestor, 252.

you might rub elbows with a real neighborhood insider, or even the almighty chonai kaicho (head of the neighborhood association). I would venture to say that most foreigners who are really interested will have an opportunity to carry a mikoshi, provided there is a festival in their neighborhood and they live there long enough. But it largely depends on how committed they are to their neighborhood ? in the end, a neighborhood festival is not just about having a party, it's about being a community.

Surviving the experience
A mikoshi may not be all that big, but it's heavy. Almost every square inch is filled with dense Japanese zelkova[1] and covered in solid brass decorations and fittings. Built like a top-heavy shrine building in miniature, a mikoshi has a thick, broadly-sweeping roof, supported by several hundred pocket-size rafters and brackets that transfer the roof's weight upon four corner columns and one inner column. The structure is solid almost to the core; the empty space at the heart of the structure is only big enough to fit a small mirror the size of an outstretched hand. The single heaviest fitting, the delicate-looking Firebird Goddess surmounting the roof, can weigh upwards of? kilograms. The coiled brass dragonheads projecting from the four corners of the roof and the giant yanemon crests mounted on each of its faces all weigh ?kg or more. The entire structure is mounted on long ?cm x ?cm beams of hinoki cypress[2]. Bouncing all this heft up and down for two hours can produce a crippling pain in legs, back and shoulders that lasts for days and is harder to forget than the experience of the festival itself.

Here are a few tips to avoid straining yourself:
1.Get in shape first. Focus on building strength in your back muscles and above all your leg muscles. Shallow squats are a good simulation.
2.Bring something like a small towel that you can use for a shoulder pad. Make sure you have a way to fix it to your shoulder so that it won't slip off and trip someone.
3.Bend your knees, rather than your waist or your spine.
4.Although you could cushion the shock by wearing sneakers, make sure to sign up for pair of tabi (traditional socks with rubber soles attached) instead. Others will be wearing tabi, and if you step on their toes with your sneakers, they won't be happy about it. If your shoe size is over 27 cm, give your chokai a couple of weeks' advance notice so they can put in a special order.

If you're tall by Japanese standards (over 175 cm), you run the risk of carrying half the weight of the mikoshi by yourself, while the people around you carry air. Obviously, try to line up next to people who are about as tall as you. If you can't find anyone your height, making yourself shorter by spreading your feet is not an option because it would make it impossible for you to make the necessary up-and-down springing motion (besides, there's nowhere to spread your feet since you're packed in among other people). You may also be tempted to reduce your height by leaning backwards, but beware that this is a leading cause of slipped discs. Instead,

[1] Zelkova serrata.
[2]
Chamaecyparis obtusa.

bend a little deeper at the knees until you feel like you're not carrying more than your share of the weight. If you've done your training squats, your thighs should be able to manage the strain.

If all else fails, you can go to the front of the mikoshi and be a steersman, the person who controls the speed and direction of the mikoshi. Because the steersman uses the length of his own body as leverage to slow or redirect the portable shrine, it actually helps to be tall. But it is not without its own challenges. As the steersman, you must keep the mikoshi moving along at the right pace: too fast, and the mikoshi won't bounce up and down enough; too slow, and the bearers will get tired. You must keep an eye on street traffic, parked cars, and other obstacles, and keep people out of harm's way. You must also act as a kind of coach, keeping an eye on who's tired and who's not, and rotating in replacements as necessary. For all these reasons the steersman's job usually goes to someone with lots of experience. In the end, you may find it more feasible just to be a humble bearer and resign yourself to shouldering a heavier than average load.
The above advice may help you avoid undue pain, but it bears mentioning here that for many if not most participants, the pain and suffering inflicted by the portable shrine are to be sought, not avoided. These people steadfastly shun the towel and the shoulder pad. Some deliberately use the same shoulder at all times, hoping to develop a bulging subcutaneous goose egg called a mikoshi-dako, the mark of the genuine katsugite (mikoshi-bearer). A few traverse the city, crashing one festival after another, in search of this punishment. You may decide it is something to be experienced.

Enjoying the experience
Other than delighting in communal pain and suffering, what can you do to enjoy the experience of being a human trailer tire? Here it is pertinent to recall the rule that "Once the priest sanctifies a mikoshi and installs the deity in it, the mikoshi is…under the deity's control, not the bearers'."[1] When the mikoshi bobs up and down, when it zigzags crazily, when the bearers chant loudly and vigorously, the kami (deity) is said to be in good spirits. When it lumbers along lethargically, and the bearers' chant sounds halfhearted, people say the kami is dead. This judgment applies to you as well: bearers and deity are one body.

No, you won't have any fun if you and the kami just trudge along. Unless you make the mikoshi bounce energetically, spiritedly around the neighborhood, you will not enjoy the

[1] Bestor, 239.
true collective exuberance of a Japanese festival. Harmony is essential. Uncoordinated jerking from one side or one end of the mikoshi does not satisfy; you must make movements in unison with others. When you sense the movement reaching a temporary crescendo, such as in front of a store that made a large gift to the festival or outside the home of a family that brought out food and drinks, you must render every ounce of energy for the kami. Give no thought to exhaustion ? when you are spent, someone else will take your place. Your exertion is the mikoshi's buoyancy. Upon your and the other bearers' coordinated struggle, the mikoshi can float like a bird. When it does, people will say that it is alive, and so will you feel.



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| 親方の仕事紹介 | 1.重さはいえねえ | 2.神輿新調その1 | 3.神輿新調その2 | 4.神輿新調その3 |
| 5.不死身の神輿 | | 6.神輿修理 | 7.趣意書 文例 | 8.神輿の手入れ、保管 | 9.神輿の点検 |
| 10.秘策 資金集め | 11.神輿職人いろいろ | | 12.御祝儀 | ビデオ:江戸神輿の秘密 | 超得々サービス |
| 神輿価格 | 神輿修理 | 神輿修理調査票 | 太鼓価格 | 神輿金具価格 | | 神輿用たんす金具 | 神輿飾綱価格 |
神輿鈴価格 | 注文お取引方法 | 会社・地図 | 祭り関連リンク | お問合わせ | サイトマップ |


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