The Omikoshi for Kids

Each year, during the town festival, apart from all the food and games stalls, residents can participate in carrying an omikoshi or portable shrine. It is said that the portable shrine temporarily houses the gods of that town’s main shrine. On the first day of the festival weekend, people from each town gather at the main shrine to ask the gods to enter the omikoshi. Afterwards, it is carried through the town to spread good luck and blessing around.┬áThis continues from morning until night for three days. People who carry the omikoshi are also supposed to be rewarded with blessings for the year. Some people really carry it for the full three days or the entire day, through rain or shine. On the last day, all the omikoshi return to the main shrine and the gods go back.

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There is a smaller omikoshi which elementary school kids can carry. For younger children, they can pull the drums that are played in front of the omikoshi. So from a very young age, residents can take part in this traditional Shinto practice.

The kids took part in this year’s festival with their friend from school. They walked in the blazing sun for a total of about 2 hours (with about 3 breaks in between). They’re too young to carry the shrine, so they carried and together with other kids about the same ages, pulled the long rope that was attached to the trolly carrying the drums. I was impressed that they managed to make it through the entire morning.

I couldn’t help but notice┬áthe striking similarity between the omikoshi and the Christian stories about the Ark of the Covenant. …but this will be another topic.

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