Itako are symbols of the popular, folk-religion; they have loose ties with institutional centers and established sects or schools. However, among the older generation there were some mythological references that linked the itako practices to the Buddhist pantheon, and to Shakyamuni himself. Again, this might end up being a little technical, but it represent a very interesting example of how religious practitioners hold some very significant creative power, so it might worth the reading!Continue reading
Well, I am excited to announce that JST will be at Nipponbashi Matsuri 2017, a popular festival held every year in Treviso by the Japanese Cultural Association Nipponbashi. This year the main theme is ghosts and spirits, and I will introduce the topic in two different moments…Continue reading
Yes, I am one of those girls who go crazy for Japanese garments and traditional dresses. During my travels and stay in Japan, I had my fair share of shopping, and I came back home with some beautiful examples of second-hand yukata and kimono.Continue reading
We said many times that itako are popular for the kuchiyose, the calling of the dead. However, the locals are still familiar with another – somewhat ancient – practice that itako still perform today: the Oshirasama-asobase. This is a very peculiar ritual in which the blind woman uses two wooden stick dressed and adorned with amazing fabrics, and that are supposed to represent a legendary girl Tamaya-goze, and her horse Sendankurige.
Little disclaimer: this is a very technical post… a lot of specific language and citations are employed, so I can understand you if you feel sceptic about it, but i must warn you, the legend is incredible and it’s worth the reading.Continue reading
The second kamisama I could meet was an older woman who lives with her daughters in the suburbs of Hirosaki. I visited her on August 4th, 2014 together with a new informant, Noriko, a very nice lady from the city who accepted to conduct me to the kamisama; with me, came a fellow researcher and Aya, the young interpreter from Misawa. Noriko led us to the kamisama’s house, a small building with a wide garage rearranged as a living room, to enjoy some fresh air in the hot summer days.Continue reading
Tōhoku area witnessed the development of a different form of shamanism, characterized mainly by the fact that here we have sighted persons (in some case also male practitioners) called kamisama カミサマ, kamisanカミサン, gomisoゴミソ, etc., who entered the profession through a completely different path and developed different skills and practices. Their number is still higher than that of the itako, and often their popularity is widespread. They usually become shaman as the result of a personal physical or mental trauma that led them to ascetic practice and eventually to the contact with the kami.
I could meet two very different professionals in Aomori-ken, Kimura Fujiko木村藤子 (in Mutsu-shi), a charming and interesting woman in her sixties, and Iyo san イヨさん (from Hirosaki area) an older woman in her eighties who faced a long training in the mountains. Here, I want to share with you my experience with Kimura-san.Continue reading
I could met Matsuda san a second time in the summer 2014, the 31st July after the Osorezan Taisai; since the Taisai is a very intense and demanding moment for the itako (Matsuda expecially had a great number of clients for all the four days of the taisai), when we called her to ask a new meeting, she asked to arrange it a few days after the festival, so that she could recover from the fatigue and she could perform a proper kuchiyose for me.Continue reading
I’ve been talking about itako for quite a lot, now… I would like to share with you the experience I had with Matsuda Hiroko, the youngest itako still working today. She is very popular in Aomori, and I have to say she is a very interesting woman, first of all because she is not at all blind.Continue reading