Hi I’m Ryo Sakai, junior year student in KGU School of International Studies. Here I talk a bit about my personal background. I was born and raised in Osaka, and when I was in sophomore year, I went study abroad to University of Massachusetts Amherst for a semester as an exchange student. I majored in education in the US and after got back to Japan, I started to study linguistics as my theme of graduation thesis. my hometown osaka is now very big city, but still has a lot of cultural stuffs, so here I will talk about the traditional festivals.
Japan has a lot of festivals in fall to pray for harvest, and I’ll introduce the one of the most exciting festivals, called “Danjiri(地車)”. Danjiri is a huge wooden shrine with 4 wheels like a car and so many carvings on it, which runs all around the certain local areas. 2 long ropes are tied to the front part of Danjiris, and people pull the ropes to move them. While a Danjiris are moving, males are playing 4 Japanese music instruments on it, Shino-bue (flute made with bamboo), Kane (gong), Ko-daiko(small drum), and O^-daiko (large drum).
The group of people who pull the Danjiris are called “Seinendan(青年団)” and most of the members are from 18 to 26 years old. Danjiri festivals are recently becoming a racing of Danjiris, whici means Danjiris are competing their speed with others, so Seinendan start to train themselves about a month before the festival, so that their Danjiri can run faster than others. (I attached the Youtube video of festivals on this post and that may be helpful to grasp the image of Danjiri)
Since the Danjiri is based on Shintoism, it also reflects the religious value of Shintoism. Shintoism forbids women to get into some of its sacred places, and that rule is called “Nyonin-kinsei(女人禁制). For example, until the end of Edo Period, women were religiously banned to climb Mt Fuji, though Mt Fuji is now visited by so many climbers including males and females. The same thing is happening in Danjiri Festivals, females are usually not allowed to ride on Danjiris, and people believe that the females who have ridden on Danjiri can never get married. Some of the Seinendans don’t even accept females because of its Shintoism value. Nyonin-Kinsei has caused some serious problems in terms of sexism. The case of Danjiri is not a serious one but there are other problems going on in some parts of Japan.
Japanese traditional festivals are really fun, but I think that we should also be aware of its religious backgrounds and influence on festivals and that helps us to understand how religions are affecting japanese customs and culture.