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shamanism

JS Readings, JST Video

#5 non-fiction books about Japan | JST Readings

Reading Time: 2 minutes

You all know by now how much I love books. They are some kind of fetish to me, I need to buy them, smell then and consume them. A few months ago I talked about the #5 books that made me fall in love with Japan, and they all were narrative and literature books. Today, I want to propose you some non-fiction books to better understand Japanese culture and its more recent developments.

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Osorezan - Where the spirits dwell
Culture tips, Field 2012, Field Journal

Where the spirits dwell | The Osorezan

Reading Time: 6 minutes

For a long time now, the word “itako” has been associated (at least in the popular culture) with that of Osorezan, the Hell Mountain located in Northern Aomori. While their activity is clearly broader thant that performed at the mountain, this is an undeniably powerful element that concurred in recent years to the popularity of itako themselvs. The Osorezan is infact the most important sacred place of Tōhoku, celebrated as the hells’ mountain, and its volcanic slopes are considered the physical representation of the different buddhist afterworlds. 

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oshirasama, the girl and the horse
Anthropology, Field Journal

Oshirasama, the girl and the horse

Reading Time: 7 minutes

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.

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Iyo-san the kamisama of the mountain
Anthropology, Field 2014, Field Journal

The kamisama of the mountain: Iyo-san

Reading Time: 5 minutes

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.

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Kimura-san, the kamisama of the north
Anthropology, Field 2014, Field Journal

The kamisama of the north: Kimura-san

Reading Time: 7 minutes

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.

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Meeting an itako Matsuda
Anthropology, Field 2014, Field Journal

Meeting an itako: Matsuda-san #2

Reading Time: 3 minutes

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.

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