Annual Events Traditional Culture

Mikoshi (Portable Shrine)

Bearing a Mikoshi (Portable Shrine)” on our shoulder on festival day , you can’t beat it when it comes to dispelling accumlated stresses and having a big fun.

This is not an exaggerated to say that these events are in a way noisy and boisterous and bacchanalian revelry at the first glance.

That’s because we start drinking Sake in the morning and carring heavy heavy portable shrine on our shoulder and shouting cheerfully “Wasshoi, Wasshoi” or “say ya, soi ya, sah, sorya” or “Dokkoi Dokkoi” etc,. under being fairly tipsy.

You probably get an impression from watching their parade that sometimes the participants almost seem to be fighting each other, and it’s more fun than a game of rugby!

Mikoshi (Portable Shrine)
Mikoshi fighting on Nada-no-Kenka (fighting) Matsuri at Himeji.

Hello everyone,  how is it going?

Following Matsuri (festival) which I posted yesterday, today’s topic is Mikoshi (portable Shinto shrine) that is the necessity in Matsuri, from which you can understand deeply what’s it like through the website Matsuri .

Why Sake is so important in Matsuri?

Besides the Mikoshi, Sake is one of indispensable parts of Matsuri since sake has long been an important offering to Shinto deities, the Kami (deity), who clearly like sake very much.

The sake once offered to the kami is called “Omiki“, and it’s believed to aquire divine powers and to be very auspicious That’s why sake is strongly connected with Matsuri.

And hearing god loves Sake, how pleasant sound to our ears, sake-lovers.

What’s Mikoshi (Portable Shrine)?

The Mikoshi, (portable shrine) which is brought out from the main shrine building and paraded through the city streets.

The deity of the shrine is believed to enter the mikoshi, which the local people carry from place to place around the neighbourhood.

Because deities are usually shut away deep inside shirines, annual mikoshi parades like this are a rare chance for the local people to get close to them.

Mikoshi (Portable Shrine)

In ancient times, the emperors and aristocrats in Kyoto would ride in palanquins called koshi. For the palanquins used to carry the deities, mi, the Japanese word for “god”, was added, making the word mikoshi.

Gradually, this practice of carrying the deities around local neighbourhoods spread throughout the country.

Mikoshi (Portable Shrine)

A mikoshi is composed of three main sections. First is the central chamber. This is where the deity resides during festivals, so it’s the most important component of the mikoshi.

A small torii shirine gate is usually placed next to the chamber.

Torii are erected at the entrances to shrines to symbolize that the ground inside is sacred. The central chamber of the mikoshi represents the shrine itself.

A roof is place on top of the chamber. The tops of most mikoshi roofs are decorated with a phoenix, which is believed to be highly auspicious.

According to legend, the appearance of a phoenix heralds the birth of a great ruler.

Mikoshi (Portable Shrine)

The main structure and roof are supported on a base fitted with poles, so that the mikoshi can be carried around. Ther bearers support the poles on their shoulders.

In some festivals, they jog the mikoshi up and down as they carry it. This movement is believed to stimulate the deity inside, heightening its powers.

Mikoshi (Portable Shrine)

Transferring the deities into mikoshi and parading them around the streets. This is the way Japanese people deepen the connection with their local deities.

Mikoshi (Portable Shrine)

A festival is an event ordinarily celebrated by a community and centering on some characteristic aspect of that community and its religion or traditions.

It is often marked as a local or national holiday.  Next to religion and folklore, a significant origin is agricultural.

Food is such a vital resource that many festivals are associated with harvest time. Religious commemoration and thanksgiving for good harvests are blended in events that take place in autumn.

Gojinko Festival which has about 1,000 history

Gojinko  Festival, which is held every November and it has a history dating back a thousand years in the city of Hofu, Yamaguchi Prefecture.

This year of 2018, Hofu Tenmangu Shrine Gojinko Festival will be held on November 24(Sat) ~ 25(Sun) and Tenjin Female Mikoshi (Female participants shouldering Mikoshi) around noontime on 25(Sun).

Access; about 15 minutes from Hofu Station on JR Sanyo-Honsen

For further information of Hofu Tenmangu Shrine;

Finally, in order to get Matsuri more, here are two videos whose narrator is English,

1) What really happens

2)Kyoto Jidai Matsuri

About the author

古林 茂樹(Shigeki Furubayashi )