Kansai Scene this month reports a rare opportunity for foreigners to take part in a Shinto festival….
“Nishinomiya International Association is looking for volunteers to help carry omikoshi, portable shrines, in the city’s annual festival on Sunday September 23rd. It costs ¥500 to take part, and all festival clothing and food is provided. Men and women will carry separate omikoshi around the city streets, then take part in a boat procession at Nishinomiya Harbour.”
To join in, sign up by Friday 7 September. Send details of your name, contact details, nationality and native language to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mikoshi incidentally are said to have originated in 749 when the kami Hachiman was transported from Usa Shrine in Kyushu to guard over the Buddhist temple of Todaiji in Nara. I’ve always understood this to be simply based on the custom of aristocrats riding in a palanquin; one pays deference to kami as exalted beings much as to ‘those who live beyond the clouds’ i.e. the top level of nobility.
Wikipedia though has a most curious sentence about the supposed roots: “The altar of the harvest festival carried out to the time which repeated migration by hunting and collection is the origin of a mikoshi.” The rest of their page (see here) carries some useful information, so it’s a pity the page editor appears to have resorted at this point to machine translation. Either that or the writer took way too much of a certain substance!