electronic journal of contemporary japanese studies

Article 5 in 2007
First published in ejcjs on 15 October 2007


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Who Owns Culture?

Negotiating Folk Tradition at the Nishinomiya Ebisu Shrine

- 西宮恵比寿神社 -

By

Darren-Jon Ashmore

Assistant Professor
Akita International University

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About the Author


Abstract

Until relatively recently, the study of Japanese puppet art has largely been limited to the arts of Bunraku and the Edo period forms of ningyō jōruri [puppet drama] from which it evolved. However, beyond the bounds of these forms there existed, and still exists, a wealth of puppet based theatre which has largely been overlooked by the Anglophone academic community. Moreover, though many scholars have touched on the rites of the Nishinomiya Shrine, little work has been carried out at the shrine itself especially with regard to the way the shrine's puppets operate today, and the way in which others view this 'birthplace' of Japanese puppet arts. This paper is an attempt further to encourage this burgeoning interest in the more 'common' aspects of Japanese performance art and, in this case, adds to the debate on rights of access and signification which the preservation or revival of such important cultural properties generates.


Acknowledgements

The core of the paper was researched in the winter of 2001/2002, when the author was, thanks to the generosity of the Leverhulme Foundation, on study leave to Japan and is the result of several detailed discussions[1] with master Yoshii Sadatoshi (Head of the Shrine), as well as the gift of a number of rare documents from the shrine's archive which detail the history of the place.


What does it matter that we bring in outside puppeteers these days? Even if we never again performed the puppet rites to Ebisu and Dokun, Nishinomiya would still be the heart of the Japanese puppet theatre. We stand as the foundation upon which all is built.[2]

Yoshii Sadatoshi: Head of the Nishinomiya Ebisu Shrine.

 

Yoshii Sadatoshi and Ebisu.
Photograph taken by the author, 16 April 2001

 

Introduction

This article deals with the post-war revival and modern perception of the ancient traditions of ritual puppeteering which are dedicated to the smallpox kami Ebisu-Hyakudayū at that spirit's Nishinomiya shrine. The main aim is to explore the issue of the rights of access to a particular signification of this puppet ritual, which is analysed and deconstructed so as to demonstrate to the reader how important it has been for a number of groups to have right of entry to those privileges to bolster their own positions.

In pursuit of this, the process of revival itself as a socio-cultural phenomenon will be our main area of interest and its deconstruction as a cultural artefact, from a sociological point of view, our method. By breaking down the history of the theatre, its revival and the role different agents play in its continued existence it is hoped that the reader will be able to gain an insight onto the complex nature of compromise and rights which make up such a property as Nishinomoya's Ebisu Puppet Plays.

Even today, much mainstream scholarship on Japanese folk cultural activity centres on what Prof. Jane Marie-Law calls a 'unity of experience at the popular level', drawn from the works of respected early scholars of folklore, such as Yanagita Kunio, and based around the assumption that all people share common associations across the various social strata.[3]

This is so because of the attractive way it promotes not only the acceptance of native cultural tradition, but also allows all levels of society to interact in a superficially valid way with such traditions by effectively uniting all people through a shared heritage, thus confirming the supposed homogenous nature of the Japanese. This stands in direct conflict to the fact that, for most of Japanese history, the character of the country has not only been enhanced by the distinctiveness of its many groups but also largely defined by the way in which social meaning was negotiated through accepting the individuality of each of them.

By attempting to collectivise all social groups much that was important within the national social setting was either subsumed or totally ignored in an attempt to re-create the cultural properties of the folk environment in forms which the modern intellectual middle classes could appropriate, in the context of a revival, as their own. Much of what various incoming cultural groups (both from the Pacific region as well as the Asian mainland), had contributed to Japan through the ages, from agriculture and writing to religious stability, was simply co-opted by the state as being the product of the Japanese.

An unintentionally inspirational voice in this re-evaluation of the role of different groups within the academic arm of the folk revival community was that of the American folklorist Richard Dorson, whose 1976 work Folklore and Fakelore: Essays Towards a Discipline of Folklore Studies[4] has become one of the required texts for everyone, conservative or radical, working in the field of native Japanese folklore studies.

Some might argue that such rituals, which are attended by maybe a handful of adherents each year, are of so little value to the modern Japanese sense of self that if they were to be swept away, not a soul would notice outside of the immediate community. Indeed, on several occasions in the past, attempts have been made to test this argument and destroy Nishinomiya's age-old ceremony, but have ultimately come to nothing.

It is my contention that the collapse of such attempts to silence the voices of Nishinomiya (and other such places) can be seen as something of an inevitable consequence of the failure of those involved fully to appreciate the complex arrangement of significations and symbolic power relationships which surround such well understood if not 'visibly' supported properties as Nishinomiya's Ebisu rites. Not only is the signification of anything important to a social reality largely dependent on a process of ongoing interaction between one or more groups which actually creates meaning for the thing in question, but also that this meaning is invariably different for each group involved with that process of interaction. In short, the participant's interpretation of a given thing not only helps define its worth internally for that person's group, but also provides an important framework from which others draw understanding of this particular social reality.

The forms of the modern revival may be different, but the fact remains that the preservation and revival of common cultural reality is not something which is unique to our age, nor to the likes of Cecil Sharp, Yanagita Kunio or their heirs. From Nara period revision of native agricultural rituals to the recovery of rural traditions in the Edo period, cultural properties which today would be described as folk or non-elite have long been central to the creation of negotiated meaning for all levels of Japanese society.

Therefore this paper argues that, as the Japanese have become more aware of their fundamental attachment to the properties which form the foundation for their sense of social reality, a more appropriate way of interpreting the relationships between participants is required. It is no longer enough to speak of properties such as the Ebisu puppets in the sort of abstract terms which characterised the revival of folk culture in the twentieth century, in which folk culture was seen as somehow detached from its creators and possessed by the intellectual elite.

Indeed, when working with the sort of increasingly well informed and historically aware population which now make up the greater part of the modern Japanese folk cultural movement, all who would vie for a voice in the revival of a particular property must learn to interact effectively with people who have different values, cultural expectations, and ways of perceiving social reality.

Thus, in an environment where control is no longer possible through the imposition of will or authority, participants need to develop a willingness to compromise their own ideals with those of their fellows in order to reach a reasonable accommodation. However, as this paper demonstrates, the notion of 'compromise' in this regard should not be thought of as a process of debasing one's stance till it accords with a common, lower, standard.

Rather, it might be viewed as the ability to recognise and integrate social and cultural differences into one's own position in order to improve it: the notion of 'negotiating social reality'. However, though a notion of the collectivisation of social reality and history provides a very practical vehicle for people who would not otherwise have a voice in such a discussion to voice their opinions, it does raise one very interesting question about what might result from such a process of negotiation. Specifically, is it even possible for what amounts to little more than a cultural 'committee' to negotiate the history of a given property in this way without fundamentally damaging its credibility or handing over control to the most powerful agent, via an ability to purchase consent?

An End and a Beginning

In June of 1870 a party of officials from the court arrived at the Nishinomiya Ebisu Shrine and requested to view a performance of the supplication rite to Ebisu-Hyakudayū. Commissioned by the Office of Imperial Ceremony at court and bearing papers from the Office of Religious Affairs, the group included several members of the emperor's personal retinue, some secular government officials and one of the senior priests from the Ise shrine. After inspecting the puppets used in the ritual (though they declined to interview any of the present outcaste kaki puppeteers), and witnessing an act of worship to the disease aspect of Ebisu-Hyakudayū, the group spent the day in questioning the priests of the shrine about the history of the complex and its various ceremonies. According to Yoshii Sadatoshi, the current shrine's master, they were most displeased with the nature of what they had just witnessed within the bounds of what they termed a kokuheisha [National Shrine] and demanded that all puppet rituals to Ebisu-Hyakudayū be suspended, along with all other activities by Special Status workers, who were also stripped of priestly status.[5]

The attempt was overthrown, however, when priests from Nishinomiya appealed directly to the person of the Emperor. He apparently agreed that the centre should not be stripped of its status as an important religious centre and recognised the validity of a charter granted to the shrine allegedly by Emperor Sutoku (rd.1123-1141) which allowed for the use of a puppet ritual at the site, to suppress smallpox.

It must be remembered in this context that prior to the Meiji period, and despite very superficial associations through kami and shrine-to-shrine patronage, most native religious centres were fundamentally independent organisations, subject only to national issues through the Buddhist temples with which they were friendly. The restoration required the creation of a national Japanese religion to mirror the unified faiths of the various western nations and, as Buddhism was not deemed suitable for such a position, the thousands of loosely connected shrines which existed throughout the country were brought into service to fulfil that ideal. However, it was not going to be possible to create the sort of faith which was envisaged out of the very eclectic groups which the general population were familiar with. Thus, when the Office of Religious Affairs was given charge of the issue in 1868, they formed a two-fold plan which would re-write the native faith as an imperial cult, based around a limited number of kami and their association to the person of the emperor.

First, the architecture of the new faith was created by essentially co-opting the way in which Buddhist sects ran themselves on a national level, in terms of pastoral care, the absorption of deities and the theft of sites, through the act of shinbutsu bunri [separating Shinto and Buddhism].[6] Next, the Grand Shrine of Ise, the home of the imperial kami, was appointed as the most senior in the country and all other shrines, right down to household level, were ranked beneath it according to location and spiritual associations.

Shrines were divided into three main categories. The kanpeisha [Imperial Shrines] represented the most important places of worship for the country in that it was at these shrines in which rituals led by the imperial household actually took place. Next ranked the above mentioned kokuheisha which, though not centres of contemporary imperial ritual, were either directly associated with the ascension of Emperor Jinmu to the throne in pre-history, or regional centres which played an important part in the official history of the nation, such as the Izumo Shrine at which Susa-no-wo is held to have fought the great serpent Orochi. Finally there were mukakusha [shrines without status]. While National and Imperial shrines were held as the ritual centres for the nation, the mukakusha were regarded as places where the population, ideally each person being assigned to a particular shrine depending on area of habitation, would go to carry out acts of worship or seek pastoral care. Thus when Nishinomiya was visited by the Office of Religious Affairs, and its kaki condemned, it was being assessed as possessing the trappings of a mukakusha, in that it practiced pollution control rites on demand, within the bounds of what was, to the authorities, actually a kokuheisha, the place where Hiruko-no-kami came ashore and one of the few shrines west of Ise reliably known to have been dedicated to Amaterasu in the classical period.

Protesting the treatment of their ancient rituals to the palace itself, sending what proof was available of Emperor Sutoku's original charter for the practice of Nishinomiya puppet purification rituals, the priests of the shrine did not give up their practices lightly. The issue seems to have come down to a difference of signification over the nature of ritual puppet performance in the region and an inability of the parties involved to come to an accord over the problem of the suitability of such a ritual within a modern faith. For the priests of Nishinomiya the matter was very simple. They had effectively created pollution control rituals using effigies or puppets and had them acknowledged by a reigning emperor during the classical period of Japanese history, the age to which the Meiji authorities often directly referred when speaking of their new nation. That others had taken their basic concepts and debased them or made other things of them, such as the ningyō jōruri traditions of Awaji and Osaka, did not detract one bit from the shrine's position: that Nishinomiya itself was critically important within the native shrine community both because of the power of its kami and the ebisu kaki tradition which kept that god in check.

However, the Office of Religious Affairs seems to have taken a much more pragmatic line to the problem, in that they simply had no use for the ritual because of the context it had acquired during the nineteenth century. Puppet rituals and art had, irrespective of their historical context, become signified as folkloristic holdovers of a despised period of history; a social environment which had been condemned by the government as being the very reason why Japan, in the early years of the restoration, was lagging so far behind the western powers.

According to Prof. Terauchi Naoko, ritual puppets and puppeteers of Nishinomiya seem to have been viewed as being particularly unacceptable to the government in this regard on two distinct levels.

Firstly, allowing Special Status people, who were considered unclean and unable to hold priestly office according to early Meiji views on ritual purity, to act as intermediaries between the mundane world and the spiritual, without reference to imperial deities or priests was completely unthinkable. All personal faith in the new religion was to be focussed through the figure of the emperor as a way of re-enforcing the social constraints of the time, and allowing people direct access to kami, especially those still sometimes viewed as outsider deities, undermined that relationship.[7]

Secondly, these were rituals which, for well regarded physicians within the government such as Kitazato Shibazaburo, stood in clear opposition to the work which was being undertaken at this time to reform clinical standards in Japan; they were perceived as placing superstitious practice before medical science. Such a sentiment might be said to have been particularly poorly reasoned. Indeed the reason that many poor people patronised shrines to Ebisu, as well as the other ekibyōgami, was that few could afford to seek treatment with either traditional or modern medical practitioners. However, that such a renowned scholar of medicine should pick up, and take issue with, this aspect of Ebisu-Hyakudayū worship, does rather indicate that it was a common enough practice to be of note to the establishment.[8]

With the weight of several government departments, the rule of law and support of the newly established national Shinto community behind them, one might imagine that the suppression of Nishinomiya's ebisu kaki would have taken place quickly. However, as we see in the shrine's own record of the events of early Meiji, no official move was ever made against the complex after the visit of 1870.[9] The shrine employed four priests, half a dozen miko, who were soon to be put out of work by the 1871 act on women in the priesthood, and twelve ebisu kaki: hardly a powerful political lobby. That being the case one has to ask why the Office of Religious Affairs failed to press their revision of Nishinomiya's signification home and suppress puppet rituals at the Nishinomiya.

For some, such as Yoshii Sadatoshi, the issue lies with the fact that, unlike the average itinerant puppeteer or folk theatre, the Nishinomiya shrine did have some very powerful local and national supporters. Most important of these, as it transpired, was the emperor himself who upon being appealed to in 1870, advised the Office of Religious Affairs that he approved of the rituals of the Nishinomiya shrine and did not wish to see them oppressed directly.[10] This has most often been linked to the creation of Nishinomiya as a chartered imperial shrine by Emperor Sutoku, and the bad light which reversing an imperial edict from an age which was often held up as the model for Meiji Japan would cast upon the emperor.

For others however, such as Tono Yoichi, the failure of the suppression lies in the way in which the local population responded to the situation by openly expressing their support for the shrine's activities. These were people to whom the shrine, and its rituals, had very clear value.[11] For the priests of Nishinomiya the puppeteering of the kaki served to re-enforce the significations of the leaders of the shrine as ritual specialists, who were remote from the more physical aspects of the native faith as a religion. These were men who had been raised in a tradition which handed over the more pastoral aspects of religious life to Buddhists or Special Status practitioners.

Thus, taking the kaki, along with the Buddhist temple which also supported the shrine, away from Nishinomiya, threatened to undermine this symbolic power relationship and damage not only the way in which the priesthood viewed itself, but how others viewed it. For the people of the Nishinomiya region however, the threatened rituals were important as markers of a particularly significant aspect of local history, that their ancestors had been selected by the eldest known kami to be born into the mundane world as his subjects. Thus when the remote national authorities, about whom few knew little anyway, attempted to remove the way in which these people interacted with their patron, they reacted very negatively towards the idea and vigorously supported the shrine in defending their right to worship Ebisu-Hyakudayū in whatever way they saw fit.

It is my contention that the collapse of the Office of Religious Affairs' case against Nishinomiya can be seen as something of an inevitable consequence of the failure of its leadership to understand the complex pattern of significations and symbolic relationships which surrounded the long-standing and well known cultural icon that was Nishinomiya shrine's puppet rite to Ebisu-Hyakudayū. What others, even the Meiji emperor himself apparently, seem- to have accepted is that as was stated in the introduction not only is the signification of anything important to a social reality largely dependent on a process of ongoing interaction between one or more groups which actually creates meaning for the thing in question, but also that this meaning is invariably different for each group involved with that process of interaction.

In short, the participant's interpretation of a given thing not only helps define its worth internally for that person's group, but also provides an important framework from which others draw understanding of this particular social reality. The importance of external sources of social validation also seems to account for the seeming inconsistency involved in the population of Nishinomiya coming together so swiftly to defend a shrine which had been increasingly poorly supported since the beginning of the eighteenth century.

The Rites

The earliest recorded evidence for a religious community of any size in the region which eventually became the city of Nishinomiya is to be found in one of the volumes of a relatively obscure court text, written between 850 and 885, known as the Montoku Jitsuroku[12] [A True Account of (the Age of) Montoku].[13] This was a work, commissioned at the command of Emperor Montoku (rd.850-858) himself, to provide the basis of an accurate record of the ongoing activities of state offices. Thus, in addition to general tax records, legal precedents, lists of imperial holdings and officers, its volumes also carefully listed all religious centres which fell under the protection of the throne, and it is in this context that we find a small reference to what is now the city of Nishinomiya. Very simply, it states that, in the village of Hiroda between the capital city and the village of Sumiyoshi on the coast across the great bay from Awaji Island, stood a small worship hall to the ancient spirit known as Hiruko-no-kami which was both exempt from all form of taxation and licensed to sell protective effigies of that kami.[14]

Though the entry makes no reference of any kind to the use of puppets as ritual objects at Hiroda, some Japanese authorities have suggested that the mention of effigies being sold implies that there must have been some form of puppet-related ritual taking place within this shrine from its earliest days. For some, such as Tsunoda Ichiro, the argument is related to the fact that when effigy rituals are first noted in detail at Nishinomiya in the late eleventh century, in Oe Masafusa's Yujoki [A Chronicle of Women of Pleasure], they are recorded as being well developed and an ancient speciality of the Special Status people of Hiroda, which implies a tradition long established at the shrine.[15] This he further supports with several versions of the shrine's foundation myth[16] citing that, though no written text now exists which can be dated to before the eighteenth century, its main motifs are consistent enough with the few records we have of Kamakura period Nishinomiya practices to allow for even an extrapolation of this remoteness.[17]

A more reliable assessment of this situation however, is provided by Utsumi Shigetaro, who, though generally agreeing with the notion that it seems inconceivable that such a complex and well understood socio-religious practice could have appeared spontaneously at the time Oe Masafusa encountered it, does not feel that the shrine's founding myth itself provides suitable proof for the early origin of puppet rites at Nishinomiya. However, he reminds us that there is very strong evidence to suggest that one of the practices which continental religious specialists brought to Japan was the use of puppets and dolls as spirit doubles, such as the remarkable funerary offerings used in Chin and Han tombs.[18] Moreover, he draws evidence from the native religious centre of the Usa Hachiman Shrine, in the modern Oita prefecture, and Emperor Shomu's decree of 745 which details the Usa Hachiman-gu Hojo-e Engi [The Usa Hachiman Rite for the Pacification of the Dead] as a suitable puppet ritual for the suppression of disease. His thesis, that the founders of the Hiroda shrine would have been well acquainted with such an important document and the possibilities which it presented to their own, closely allied religious community, is most compelling.[19] The Usa Hachiman shrine was one of the three most important native religious centres in the ninth century and its priests are known to have assisted in the creation of several religious communities around the central Honshu region, including the main Ebisu shrine on Awaji; the possibility that this more established community provided some assistance to the younger Hiroda shrine cannot be dismissed.

However, the one thing which can be said for certain about Hiroda is that, by the time of Oe Masafusa, the shrine complex had developed at least one well regarded and unambiguously effigy-focussed ritual which involved the Special Status community of the shrine working in close cooperation with its priests. Specifically he describes this Hiroda effigy rite as involving the making, manipulation and selling of figures of the kami Ebisu-Hyakudayū who, at this time, is seen as both an ekibyōgami and as the patron spirit of travellers and Special Status people.[20] Indeed, so important does this protective work at Hiroda seem to have become by this period that Emperor Sutoku is noted as actually granting the shrine complex an imperial charter which acknowledged the work of the Special Status community and charged its incumbents with defending the realm from the corruption of all kami of misfortune through their unique rites to Ebisu-Hyakudayū.[21]

Throughout the centuries, the shrine was held up as one of the centres of puppet art because it was one of the only places where training in art was given as a matter of course. However, as puppeteers spread out of religious sites and into the cities in the 16th century, the shrine began to slowly lose something of its importance. Indeed, in the two centuries leading up to the attempted suppression of 1870, the shrine lost many of its kaki puppeteers to the wandering life, or to other shrines, in the wake of the great debate as to how far puppeteers would be allowed to employ their arts to earn a living outside the context of Ebisu-Hyakudayū rituals for to be a kaki in service to Ebisu-Hyakudayū was to be more than a simple performer.

As these practitioners moved out onto the road, taking up the mantle of the professional stranger and adding to it their 'alien' Ebisu-Hyakudayū puppets, the context of the shrine's own ritual activity was slowly, but irrevocably, altered. People began to see the puppet rite itself as a mobile one, which came each New Year to cleanse the household, and the shrine, according to Yoshii Taro, as transformed from the house in which Ebisu/Hyakudayū resided in restless slumber, to the place from which a wandering spirit took its power. Moreover, the kaki who worked the old shrine were re-created as the guardians of these ancient rituals, to whom any other practitioner could refer queries or disputes concerning the form or function of their work.[22] Indeed, in support of this altered signification, the shrine, from around 1805, instituted a small annual festival of kaki, during which itinerant performers were invited to the shrine to compete against each other for the honour of being named the most skilled manipulator, and therefore most effective ritual specialist.[23] Thus, even though it might not have seemed so to those unaware of the complicated weaving of social negotiations which the larger rite supported, Nishinomiya retained its place as the heart-and-soul of common puppet rituals in the Kansai region, and people felt that as long as the shrine persisted so would their arts, no matter how things might turn out in the field.

Thus Nishinomiya's rites were spared official censure and while the authorities turned to ridding their new nation of all things incompatible with a modern state, the puppets of this Kansai shrine were left more or less intact because they were too powerful a symbol to sweep away so abruptly. Sadly, they did not remain completely unaffected by the pace of progress around them. The shrine's sanjō district was closed down and absorbed into the shrine in 1871, after the Emancipation Edict of that year made all Special Status professions which served no other purpose but to identify former outcaste people illegal. Moreover, the Vaccination Act of 1870, though intended to enforce smallpox inoculation through the country, made it illegal for any individual not registered as a physician to treat such illnesses either through traditional medicinal practice or by mystical means. This struck deeply at both the Nishinomiya shrine kaki and the independent puppeteers who mediated Ebisu-Hyakudayū for the masses. In short order, and without seeming to target the Special Status or common ritual art community in general, these bills had destroyed both primary pillars of such ritual practices. If neither kaki nor commoner could be employed in the kaki arts because their practice physically demeaned the practitioner in the eyes of the law, then their transmission as a custom was effectively halted. However, of more importance to a convention which had always claimed a powerful religious component, was the conversion of all medicinal magic into illegal quackery, so that very few kaki were willing to violate a law which could see them imprisoned, with minimal procedure and no real chance of appeal, for up to thirty years.

However, throughout this period, and even through the shrine revision campaign of the early 1900s, there remained very potent memories trapped within that ancient place of worship. They were memories of the foundation of a long running ritual tradition which had mediated between mankind and the gods. They were memories of the root of a debate between great masters over the birth of secular ningyō jōruri and the great outpouring of skill which had taken puppet theatre into the country at large. They were memories of annual puppet festivals and the competition that these had created in rival kaki to improve their arts. They were memories of two emperors who had singled the Nishinomiya shrine out as unique and worthy of protection. Above all, however, they were, as Yoshii Sadatoshi points out 'memories of a time in which all levels of society recognized the important way in which these simple puppets acted between human lives as much as they did between the kami and mankind'.[24]

To the Highest Bidder: Post-war Patronage of Ebisu

It might be thought of as something of an ironic twist therefore that, less than fifty years after the Nishinomiya shrine was almost 'accidentally' denuded of all but the memory of its Ebisu-Hyakudayū puppet rites, another outsider power, very much in the mould of that alien kami, effectively returned them to the shrine.

As part of a general attempt to de-militarise the country after WWII, imperial Shinto was forcibly separated from the state, which resulted in the shrine community not only losing most of its financial support, but also the prestige it held in being the centre of worship for the nation's own living god.

When the Religious Division was formed in November 1945, it was charged above all else with creating a sort of parity between the faiths of the nation in which any of them could flourish as the 'free' Japanese threw off the repression of state ritual and found spiritual succour in less political religions. Their first major success became known as the Shinto Directive which was a bill designed exclusively to demote the shrine community to the position of an independent religion, revoking its status as an arm of government and barring its priests from supporting political causes.

Elements of this bill eventually found their way into the 1947 constitution, the acceptance of which ended all debate over the place of Shinto in society. Article twenty, in confirming the right of all religions to practice freely and without being subject to the will of any other ended the argument that Shinto should retain its place as the state's primary faith.[25] However it was article eighty nine which caused most consternation among the shrine community, because it made public funding, overt and covert, of any religious community illegal and took away the lingering hope that, once the occupation was over, the Japanese authorities would simply re-instate public support of the shrines.[26] The constitution did more immediate damage than simply stop the flow of money to shrines, however. Barring public funding of religious communities also meant that the state was required to stop supporting all activities which involved the promotion of religion through official means. According to Ohara Yasuo, the state education system was particularly singled out as a target in this regard, with state clergy training centres being shut down en masse, as well as all religious ephemera being removed from the more mundane curricula, such as visits to shrines, saluting the person of the emperor, etc.[27]

Though no shrines were actually closed down as a requirement of either the Shinto Directive or the 1947 constitution, few in the Jinja Honcho [Shrine Association], which was founded in January 1946 to lobby for Shinto interests in the post-war government, saw anything positive about that, because all recognized that without public funding they could not maintain their organisation as they once had. Many Japanese had become used to viewing the shrine network as a government organ, to which they owed nothing except prescribed ritual observances and certainly did not think of the local shrine as a place which might need the sort of funding that one of the surviving Buddhist temples might. Thus when, as Tsunedata Mayumi tells us, the Shrine Association contested the religious character of Shinto to the joint government in 1946, it was done with an eye to re-establishing some form of state support; if the government repealed its directive concerning Shinto being a religion it would fall outside the bounds of the constitution's bar on funding religion. The Japanese authorities were apparently content with this but the occupation powers were not and refused to hear the plea, citing that if Buddhist, Christian and other faiths were required to conform to the changing demographics of their communities, so too Shinto would have to conform.[28]

This rebuff had one positive effect on the Shrine Association, however. Specifically, it prompted a re-opening of the debate as to whether or not Shinto was actually a religion in the eyes of its own practitioners and forced a number of important priests within the shrine community, including Yoshii Taro of the Nishinomiya Ebisu shrine, to accept that in some ways, their personal beliefs were actually immaterial to the situation that they found themselves in. As he argued, Shinto was only the latest incarnation of a group of folk traditions, religions and magic systems which had been defined almost exclusively by the expectations of the people whom the few practitioners served. Up until the Meiji period, the faith had always been of a fluid character, absorbing new concepts, kami and rituals as times and public interaction demanded them. The flaw in modern Shinto seems to have been that the priesthood went from reflecting fluctuating public feelings about the kami to imposing a specific ideal on the population through rituals which the people thought they understood more than they actually did perhaps as a result of late Edo kokugaku influence. Thus, he concluded, Shinto priests should not be spending time and effort debating how to maintain a status-quo with a post-war Japan which desperately needed spiritual reconciliation with the past far more than it needed authoritarian ritual.

Yoshii Taro also seems to have been very vocal in pressing for something of an internal reconciliation with the past of the faith, stating quite rightly, that the occupation laws which had broken the power-base of ritual shrine Shinto had also swept away all of the codes which had prevented many shrines engaging in those activities for which they had become famous in the pre-Meiji past.[29] Certainly he might have been speaking from a very biased position, for, as his pupil Yoshii Sadatoshi remarks, he sincerely hoped that this change would result in the Nishinomiya shrine, along with all Ebisu centres, reinstating the sort of practices which had been abandoned in the early twentieth century when he was a youth.[30] However, the fact remains that his arguments did make sense on a broader level, particularly his belief that only by appealing to the most resilient folk memory, the most long standing significations of native religion, within the local community would Shinto be able to re-negotiate a valid social position with a population whose youth had only known the faith as an arm of state control.

Fewer young people visited the imperial shrines after the war simply because, as I found out, they did not feel required to anymore. Our older visitors remained faithful because they could remember the [Nishinomiya ] shrine when it had been as centre of care for the community and not just an organ of state, but as we had not really been involved with those sort of rites in any scale since 1905 this was a very small following. [] I was with my master one evening and he told me that from January [1949] we were reviving the Ebisu puppet rituals and expanding the Tōka Ebisu [tenth day Ebisu] festival as an attempt to attract more money to the complex.[31]

Perhaps it is rather cynical to look at the revival of a profound ritual observance like the Nishinomiya Ebisu puppet ritual as little more than an exercise in financial gain, but that is a perfectly valid way to view what Nishinomiya did in 1949 when the first officially recognised Ebisu dance for over forty years took place outside the Hyakudayū keigaisha within the shrine's old sanjō district. This was not a time for what Yoshii Taro is said to have called 'the idealistic poverty so admired in the common man by the wealthy academic', as he believed his first concern was the running of the shrine which, sadly, required a great deal of money.[32] In this regard Nishinomiya found itself looking towards one group of people in particular as representing the most ideal sponsors for their activities, the potential patrons whom Yoshii Taro rather ungraciously described in private as the 'shotei'[33] [little emperors].[34]

These were the wealthy industrialists and largely independent government officials who were coming to power in the region as replacements for the ultra-nationalist individuals purged by the Americans at the war's end. It must be remembered that, though seen as a relatively poor country in many ways after the defeat of the war, Japan was certainly not totally poverty stricken in every quarter. The champions of reconstruction in industry and government were largely the product of a generation who could remember the decline of vibrant independent shrines into the gaunt political animals they had become under military authority. As a result they made excellent potential sponsors for revived Shinto, as long as they could be convinced that their own prestige would be enhanced by financially involving themselves with the rescue of Japan's fading heritage. However, in order to attract such beneficent patrons as these, the shrine also needed to win back the favour of the common people of the region and ensure that, at appropriate times, they turned out to enjoy themselves, spend what money they could on the attractions within the shrine and, most importantly, were seen to be enjoying the largesse of the event's sponsor(s).[35]

[My Master] always used to say that shotei wealth was only worth anything to the shrine if it bought our patrons the something they could not buy themselves. These were the sort of people who did not need money, or health or the blessings of the kami. All they wanted was to create a perception in the minds of the common folk which made them into generous supporters of Japan's revival as a country. It was a something like a game, in which wealthy families outbid each other on the amount of money they could give to shrines and temples. Perhaps the religious communities did encourage them a little too much, but not only was it important to our survival, it was also exceptionally amusing.[36]

However, as Uno Masato reminds us, sponsorship of this sort was only of value where it was conspicuous and, as a result, those shrines which accepted the need for more corporate support also began experimenting with ways to attract larger numbers of people from among the common Japanese as a way of satisfying their powerful patrons. Some, such as the famous Gion shrine in Kyoto, began re-opening up their miko ranks to the general population and succeeded in founding a positive public awareness of the changing face of Shinto by publicising the place that young women had within the shrine's hierarchy. Others, such as the Nishinomiya Ebisu shrine, concluded that the surest way to create a need for the shrine within the local community was to merge the spiritual side of the shrine's activities, considered the least appealing, with a reconstruction of more attractive shrine events which could be better relied on to draw the community to the complex.[37]

This is what Yoshii Sadatoshi calls the 'secular festival context' of early post-war Shinto, referring to the degree to which shrine practices were subtly re-negotiated to make them more appealing to a people who had no real understanding of the native religion which had come before organised Shinto. The ritual qualities of shrine practices, especially those which barred public participation,[38] became increasingly downplayed, whilst the more interactionist activities were enhanced and promoted. Chief of these were, logically enough, the festival days around which earlier religious life had been almost entirely structured. This was so, according to Yoshii Taro, because it was felt in the post-war shrine community that it would be easier to attract worshippers back in the long term, in addition to securing the kind of public presence which would make potential patrons happy, through activities which could not only be justified as historically important religious rituals but also, if required, publicised as purely secular events.[39]

Food stalls, games, arts, crafts along with theatrical presentations had long been a central feature of pre-Meiji shrine festivals, encouraging people to attend important events, spend money and re-enforce the social bonds they had to the community through a systematized form of interaction. Pre-modern shrines were viewed as places where powerful spiritual forces were bound up, or as gateways to other realms; they were certainly not environments into which people might want to go without some great need. Conversely however, for a shrine to maintain its position within a pre-modern Japanese community it was required that the activities of the complex always be as close to the heart of the local community as possible, and not simply a place to which one went when driven by unfortunate circumstance. By opening up shrine grounds to team games, allowing travelling entertainers to use their precincts, as well as making festival days as attractive as possible through a controlled process of carnival, the priests became more positively signified by the local population. However, any shrine which wished to revitalise its fortunes through the revival of pre-modern rituals and/or the festival context in which those practices had once existed faced a number of very real problems concerning the practical application of their work. These ranged from exactly which rituals or festivals were to be revived, what form they should take in the modern period, whether or not they should be revived as historical remnants or as contemporary activities and, where memories or records failed, to what extent should a revived practice be re-imagined? These were very serious questions which stemmed from the fact that, in most cases, direct revival was not actually possible considering the altered social dynamics of post-war Japan.

In some cases, the societal restructuring which had taken place during the process of modernisation had made it impossible for working people to attend certain festivals on the days originally prescribed for them. Thus, while some shrines were able to secure holiday concessions for important ceremonies, most were required to tie observances in with already established holidays in order to make best use of the available potential customer base. In other cases however, full revival was not possible because of the kind of social constraints which had been imposed on Japan over the years from the ending of the Meiji period. For example, some rituals had been made illegal by either the Shinto Directive or the 1947 constitution because, in their original forms, they referred to unacceptable social conditions which were not to be tolerated in modern Japan. However, in other cases it was because the original basis for the rite had been made illegal, such as in the case of ceremonies dedicated to the defunct divine aspects of the imperial household, which affected Ise very badly indeed, prompting a paradigm shift to the shrine's modern position of venerating only Amaterasu and the memory of deceased imperial scions. In other cases this was because the festivals or rituals involved practices which the Shrine Association felt the occupying powers would disapprove of, such as the Wakamiya Hachiman Shrine phallic festival, which was not openly revived till 1952. However, in most cases it was simply that certain aspects of the festival or ceremony involved were no longer available for inclusion in the revival.

At the Nishinomiya Ebisu shrine, Yoshii Taro, who had been put in charge of the revival of the shrine's festivals in 1946, was well aware of these difficulties and how they would relate to his own efforts to restore the rites of the ebisu kaki to a position of popularity with the local inhabitants.

Foremost among his concerns was that the puppet performance he wished to revive, though always an important part of the Nishinomiya's festival context, had never been exclusively associated with any specific shrine event. Indeed, as an activity which had been employed to cleanse the way for the ekibyōgami of the shrine, it was actually performed, as required by the priests or paying worshippers, almost every day in the Edo period to aid their worship of the various enshrined powers. This alone made a successful revival very difficult indeed, for to have attempted to re-establish kaki rites to their full extent in the post-war period would have been prohibitively expensive and difficult to arrange, considering that the shrine had no remaining kaki to actually call on, nor any legal right to employ people on the grounds of Special Status. Thus Nishinomiya was forced to concede that for any revival to work, it would have to be managed on a much smaller scale, based around only a handful of those key festivals which were being slated for resurrection at the shrine in the late 1940s. However, according to Yoshii Sadatoshi, this actually accorded very well with his master's thinking about the ebisu kaki ritual, for Yoshii Taro was of the opinion that, in order to make this revived custom profitable, it was necessary to limit the presentation of the puppet rite to only one occasion annually in order to ensure that it was recreated as a truly special event in the minds of those who subscribed to it.[40]

[Yoshii Taro] was very far sighted indeed. He felt that at even two performances a year [the kaki puppet ritual] would not have been a unique event and it is unlikely that we would have found the sort of patronage for it that we did. Indeed, old shrine supporting families actually fought quite bitterly for the right to pay for the ceremony at one time, simply because it was as important to the shrine as the lead up to the annual rebirth of the Ebisu himself.[41]

Certainly having what one can view as privileged association with the most important ritual to Ebisu in Japan,[42]was an attractive prospect to rich patrons. However, according to Yoshii Sadatoshi, there was another, far more personal, reason why his master wished the revived puppet ritual to be placed in association with the old Tōka Ebisu Festival. This event had always been seen as the beginning of the year for Ebisu worshippers and a time at which supplicants would need most protection from ekibyōgami . However, this period was also, by the end of the Edo period in the Kansai region, very closely associated with the luck bringing wandering aspect of the kami which itinerant puppeteers from Awaji were responsible for popularising. Yoshii Taro seems to have been a man who had never let go of the belief that it was these itinerant ebisu kaki who had been the true agents of Nishinomiya's misfortune in the Meiji period and desired to reclaim his shrine's pride by doing all that he could to ensure that, as popular interest in such matters increased, the Nishinomiya shrine reclaimed the popular signification of master of puppet arts which had been 'stolen' by the renegades who had fled to Awaji.[43]

However, Yoshii Taro's argument for making Nishinomiya's puppet rituals unique to the Tōka Ebisu Festival was not driven entirely either by the desire to make money for the shrine or as a way of re-establishing Nishinomiya as the heart of puppet arts. Of equal importance to the nature of the ritual was the fact that in the shrine, indeed the region as a whole, there resided not a single trained ebisu kaki who could take on the responsibilities of the task. For some in the shrine, kaki were critical to the ritual, as only people possessed of an inherited immunity to taint could mediate between Ebisu and mankind. Master Taro quickly dismissed all such concerns, however, stating that the rite which was being revived was, as the evidence of the many years without it had proved, unnecessary as part of the worship of Ebisu. Further, he urged his fellows to have no illusions that there was any form of religious motive in the revival of the Ebisu puppet arts, citing how the shrine had even begun transforming Ebisu himself from a dangerous god of disease into a benign kami of good fortune in the years when kaki rituals were impossible to put on (1905-1945), and denounced calls for using Special Status puppeteers as ridiculous in that light.[44] That he eventually agreed to the use of puppeteers from beyond the Nishinomiya region, whether true kaki or not, should not be seen as a climb-down on his part however, for as his disciple claims:

[Yoshii Taro] was ever aware of the symbol he was creating and was minded to give the people he targeted with the rituals all they expected to see. Just as it was important that Ebisu be seen to be able to affect a person's well-being, even if through an inversion of his traditional role in society, so too were his kaki expected to have a quality of otherness about them, even if that meant they were simply 'outsiders' from Kobe, Awaji or Himeji. [The revival] might have made little sense from a ritual point of view, but the guests at the first post-war performance went away happy in the knowledge that one small part of the local historical map which they kept in their minds was safe, which helped them centre their lives in what was a disrupted time. [] They had no cause, or ability, to probe further than their own immediate perceptions, especially as those were credibly supported by powerful authoritarian assurances of validity and historical and religious authenticity. However, as much as we were using popular desire and credulity to validate our revival we were also being used in turn by those simple souls. We might have re-invented a tradition, but only to the degree that external desires, common as well as elite, for a past which accorded with very specific social criteria would allow.[45]

From one point of view, the revival of the arts of the ebisu kaki at the post-war Settsu Nishinomiya shrine can certainly be seen as one man's carefully executed attempt to impose very personal perceptions of an idealised social reality upon his environment during a period of great confusion. Whether or not one believes that Yoshii Taro was acting out of an altruistic desire to protect his shrine's very existence, or from a rather self-centred belief in the artistic and religious supremacy of the customs of Nishinomiya, one cannot deny that his was the hand which had set the process in motion. Yet, as we have seen above, the success or failure of this revival did not actually rest with its instigator, but rather on the willingness of many different participants, individuals and groups, to enter into a process of negotiated revival, through which a nearly defunct custom was passed and from which a viable revived tradition was recreated.

That some of these participants might have originally had no direct connection with or rights of signification over, the custom from which the modern Ebisu puppet ritual was fashioned matters not in the least to the negotiation they took part in. Many of them were not attempting to recreate a puppet ritual by taking part in the revival, but simply attempting to serve personal ends and only compromised themselves to the symbol of the rebirth of the shrine's puppet legacy as far as was required to further those causes. However, it would be wrong to think of this sort of negotiation exclusively in terms of the status of participants dictating their level of influence within the process of negotiation. Rather, much as we have touched upon the way in which even the most powerful patron is ultimately forced to conform to common expectations of folk, ritual or artistic identity, we find that each participant's status within the process is determined not by what they are but by how this contribution is interpreted.

Property Rights: Who Owns Culture?

When looked at from a more objective perspective, it is a very real wonder how the revival of Nishinomiya's puppet rites to Ebisu-Hyakudayū was accepted so readily by the community of Nishinomiya. The kaki had all gone, replaced by modern day versions, in the shape of professional artists, whose world was as elusive and remote to the average person as the kaki's was to their own peers. The shrine's puppets had long since been destroyed, sold or lost, replaced by rented effigies which had been made exclusively to entertain, not serve as ritual objects. Moreover, the very purpose of the rite had been largely abandoned in that it had become little more than a sideline event to a festival at which the collection of money was as important as reviving Ebisu-Hyakudayū from his winter slumber. Though historically, the ritual had never been a rigid, unchanging entity in the eyes of those who practiced it, the form that was eventually accepted in the revival bore so little relation to what had gone before that it was, by any sane estimation, something entirely different. Why then should this very minor revival of outcaste ritual culture, presented as it is, almost completely out of context, be of such value to the modern Nishinomiya population which has, despite a serious disruption within the local economy, been largely concerned with industrial development since the 1950s? Moreover, why should the artistic communities of the country regard this simple ceremony as being the most profound and important expression of their art in Japan?

Firstly, whether one looks at the issue from the perspective of the shrine complex, or from the stand-point of the powerful patrons who actually fund it each year, or from the point of view of the common resident, what the rite is actually standing for is a process of ongoing negotiation concerning the sharing of a significant social reality. As Robert Sidharthan Perinbanayagam reminds us, continuity of social significations through ongoing interaction is the most important tool a culture has of perpetuating itself both internally through education and externally in the creation of group significations within other bodies.[46]

The debate as to whether it is proper to admit any agent to the process of defining the development of social significations is still raging in the Nishinomiya community, even after nearly half a decade of formal debate on the subject. These arguments, first voiced by Yoshii Taro, are of a very serious character for their proponents. Indeed, there appears to be a very real belief in some local circles that uncontrolled access to the processes which maintain the ritual today risks so compromising the properties involved that they will lose all relevance as contemporary, social records.
However, this is a line of argument which has not altered much in the years since the end of the war and, as has been clearly demonstrated time and again, whatever can be said about 'common' access to common culture, it is not responsible for the state the ritual finds itself in today.

It is certainly simple enough for an agent to enter into the debates which surround a given property and become active in its development, which is where the perceived risk of damage seems to originate. Indeed, proponents of tighter control of the preservation of the Ebisu rituals, seem to be able cite seemingly endless lists of important properties which have been badly degraded by opening them up to non-professional (meaning non-academics or amateur practitioners in the main).

However, ease of access does not automatically imply ease of control, nor does a change in form/function within a given property automatically imply that non-regulated access is destroying its inherent worth. In truth, perhaps because of a lack of formal controls, the process of negotiation which drives properties like Nishinomiya's Ebisu plays has become far more self correcting than would be the case with a more formally organised group: the views of any incoming agent being assessed by the other agents involved and accepted, or rejected, on the criteria upon which the group has agreed.

Secondly, nothing within such an important process persists without it serving some purpose within the group and it would be a mistake to dismiss the perpetuation of, admittedly, relatively minor rituals within a (small) group as being an insignificant contribution to that process of self definition.[47] This is so because actual membership of a social group requires initiation into a number of different rituals, some of which will be shared by others, in order to create an individual as being not only unique to one particular social unit but also connected through association to both allied and opposed units or individuals. This was most clearly revealed to me in a conversation with one of the Nishinomiya shrines local sponsors, Mr. Ito Shinichi:

This is not about tourism or money anymore. This is about the local community once more standing out from the rest of the country as it has done in the past. Look here [at a map of the Kansai coast]. As recently as 1870, Nishinomiya was a truly independent town, with country all around it, distinctive architecture and people who were known, by their dress, walk and accent, to all around as Ebisu's children. Now you can travel from Osaka to Kobe and not even know you have gone through one of the most ancient places on the mainland, were it not for a JR announcer squeaking out 'Next, Nishinomiya'. That is why I support the [Nishinomiya] Ebisu Shrine's revival of its puppet performances with whatever money I can, because this is the last thing this town has which can be called exclusively its own, and the one thing which sets our people apart from all others. It does not matter that the shrine has almost no puppets and has to bring in people to actually perform for them. It is an idea they are reviving and sending out to the rest of Japan. 'Nishinomiya created puppet art for you' we are saying, and people are responding to that.[48]

The key issue here seems to boil down to whether or not one views properties such as the Ebisu rituals as historical or contemporary social cultural expressions and how far one is willing to compromise one's beliefs in order to reach a working consensus with other participants. Those who consider folk cultural properties to be essentially historical in nature strive to see them preserved at what is seen as the most important stage of their development; much as is the case with the National Bunraku Theatre.

While the reasons for this approach that each such property has a very definable developmental peak which represents its most perfect expression which should not be damaged seems logical enough, the notion has become completely anathema to many of those who work within the folk culture revival. Indeed, many in the opposite camp see this process as being unfair and completely arbitrary, in that it effectively allows people who do not operate within the community of a property to say that everything after a given moment in its history has no real value.

This is not to say that those who oppose the restriction of access to folk culture deride the historical aspects of their properties, but that they consider that the totality of the revival is important to its continued existence. These are people who understand the fundamental purpose of what we call 'folk culture' and to suggest that they are somehow less adept or less dedicated than those who created these properties seems to be wilfully ignorant of this purpose, as well as the self-correcting nature of the negotiations which underpin each community. In this regard, Nishinomiya is an excellent example of these processes of negotiation and the conflict which exists between revivalists and preservationists.

Indeed, in the case of Nishinomiya, which was established by an ancient elite group as one of the controls on access to spiritual authority, it is possible to see how the shrine has actually become critically important to the sense of identity of all levels of the local community. Though only operating once a year, with outside puppeteers, the January puppet ritual attracts all levels of society from within Nishinomiya's community and focuses a great deal of outside interest onto the town (as well as its businesses and small tourist industry). Nishinomiya's puppet art may not physically be the ritual it once was, nor as grand an enterprise, but it remains a potent symbol in the minds of the local community largely due to the way in which those who work on its revival have opened it up in a way which would not otherwise have been possible.

As was stated in the introduction, to analyse the current Japanese revival of folk cultural practices as a contemporary collectivised response to the uncertainty of a rapidly changing social framework, is a rather attractive concept. However, as has been demonstrated herein, this is a very crude evaluation. The agents who work within the revival community are not somehow isolated from society at larger, nor are they unable to interact with the world around them, save through the work of a handful of controlling masters. Indeed, even in the face of a great deal of draconian legislation and other forms of opposition, it has never been possible for anyone to seize, or destroy, the sort of properties we have examined in the case no Nishinomiya whilst even two uncontrolled agents persisted to re-negotiate its ongoing social reality.

Social reality (culture) does not define what people do, but is created by a process of ongoing interaction. It is impossible, as Yanagita Kunio discovered, to make that process exclusive to a limited number of controlling agents, without either damaging it in the extreme, or having it isolated by the activities of other agents, whose negotiations remain largely unaffected by such cliques. Ownership of geographical sites or physical objects might give specific agents rights of access which others might not have, in the same way that familial bonds might allow one person to speak more authoritatively on a subject than another. However, the fact that all human social reality is rooted in what can only be called a 'public domain' of ongoing interaction means that no one agent possesses the right or the ability to exclusively control any cultural property. The nature of the way in which humanity has socially developed passing on important information via that never-ending cycle of social negotiation has resulted in it being impossible to say which cultural properties belong exclusively to which groups or ages. It might be temporarily convenient to have specific properties defined in specific ways, but just as nothing in the human social order is definite, nothing in the way we define things is beyond re-negotiation when required.


Notes and References

1. The sessions were loosely structured and were not designed to be seen as interviews, more like conversations, with the hope being that this would take some stress out of the situations encourage everyone to speak more freely to which end the nature of the equipment being used (micro-fine USB voice recorders and non intrusive microphones, laptop recording etc.) contributed greatly. It must be noted that each of the discussions took place in the context of a broader web of such conversations which took place with the other sample theatres in the original study. As questions begat answers so these points were put to the other troupes in order to see how alternate viewpoints were viewed by the very different theatres. The interviews were translated by the author and a research assistant (Ms Nakajima Taeko) and transcribed to a text file in English.
2. Yoshii Sadatoshi: Chief Priest, Nishinomiya Ebisu Shrine. Interview with author, April 16 2001.
3. Law, Jane. M. (1997) Puppets of Nostalgia. Princeton: Princeton University Press. (Page 13).
4. Dorson, Richard. M. (1976) Folklore and Fakelore: Essays Towards a Discipline of Folk Studies. Cambridge Mass: Harvard University Press.
5. Yoshii Sadatoshi: Chief Priest, Nishinomiya Ebisu Shrine. Interview with author, April 16 2001.
6. Ohara, Yasuo (1993) Shinto Shirei no Kenkyu (神道指令の研究) [Researching Shinto Hierarchies]. Tokyo: Harushobo. (page 28).
7. Terauchi Naoko: Kobe University. Interview with author, November 6th 2001.
8. Terauchi Naoko: Kobe University. Interview with author, November 6th 2001.
9. Yoshii, Sadatoshi (1989) Ebisu Shinko to sono Fudo (恵比寿信仰とその不動) [Varieties of Ebisu Worship]. Tokyo: Rikkyokai. (page 27).
10. Yoshii Sadatoshi: Chief Priest, Nishinomiya Ebisu Shrine. Interview with author, April 16 2001.
11. Tono Yoichi. Director, Awaji Local History Research Centre. Interview with author, July 16 2001.
12. Also known as Nihon Montoku Tenno Jitsuroku (日本文徳天皇実録) [The True Account of Emperor Montoku of Japan].
13. Saeki, Ariyoshi (1940) Montoku Jitsuroku (文徳実録) [A True Account of (the Age of) Montoku]. Tokyo: Asahi Shinbunsha. (pp 40-42).
14. Saeki, Ariyoshi (1940) Montoku Jitsuroku (文徳実録) [A True Account of (the Age of) Montoku]. Tokyo: Asahi Shinbunsha. (pp 40-42).
15. Tsunoda, Ichiro (1963) Ningyō Geki no Seiritsu ni Kansuru Kenkyu (人形劇の成立に関する研究)[Research Connected with Puppet Theatre]. Osaka: Asahiya Shoten. (page 21).
16. Hiruko-no-kami, Dokun and the Fisherman: a modern version of the myth, told at the Nishinomiya Shrine.

This tale begins long ago, when the kami took more of a hand in things than they do now. After a long and fruitless day on the western sea, a young fisherman caught a strange stone effigy in his nets. In disappointment he threw it back, but before long he dragged up the same effigy and, deciding that this meant something important, he took it home and placed it in the most auspicious part of his house. In the night a crippled spirit came to him and said 'I am Hiruko-no-kami [Leech Child of Izanagi and Izanami]. I have travelled far and, liking this land, now wish to be worshipped here. Build me a hall a little to the West of your home and enshrine this effigy there'. The fisherman recognized the divine nature of Hiruko-no-kami and began the work with his friends the next day, erecting the Hiroda Daimyojin [The Great Shrine in the Plain], near the beach where the fisherman had brought the effigy ashore, to honour their new patron. However, in such a place, there were no miko who could be persuaded to dance for the crippled kami, fearing this alien god. So as each day passed without a miko at the Hiroda Daimyojin the western sea rose, storms from far away rolled over the land flattening the crops in the fields and many children were struck down with illnesses. However, after one hundred days of tempest, a mysterious old man of no known family, who called himself Dokun, appeared at Hiroda and claimed to be able to calm the spirit. The priests allowed him to make a puppet and dance with it before the sea shrine to Hiruko-no-kami. When Dokun and his puppet danced, the western sea was charmed, the crops sprang up in the whistling winds and the ailments of the children left them. All the people made offerings at the Hiroda Daimyojin. Though not a miko, Dokun served at Hiroda for many years, never once failing in his task and never once suffering the [polluted] touch of his master. However, eventually he became too frail and passed away, and on his death Hiruko-no-kami once again became enraged and threatened the land. The emperor, hearing of this and remembering the amagutsu doll which his elder sister had made to save him from the plague when a child, ordered that a puppet be clad in Dokun's clothing and manipulated just as Dokun himself had danced for the gods. This was done and the kami was once again appeased. [] Thus, shortly afterwards, many copies of the divine Dokun puppet were fashioned by the priests of the Hiroda Daimyojin to sell or carry from shrine to shrine and house to house, where miko were not to be found, in order to entertain the kami and abjure from Hiruko-no-kami protection from disease for the faithful. Even today people bring their babies to the shrine on their one hundredth day of life to receive the blessing of Hiruko-no-kami in his guise as Ebisu-Hyakudayū, the patron of puppeteers and guardian of children.
Yoshii Sadatoshi: Chief Priest, Nishinomiya Ebisu Shrine. Interview with author, April 16 2001.

17. Tsunoda, Ichiro (1963) Ningyō Geki no Seiritsu ni Kansuru Kenkyu (人形劇の成立に関する研究)[Research Connected with Puppet Theatre]. Osaka: Asahiya Shoten. (pp 22-23).
18. Utsumi, Shigetaro (1958) Ningyō Jōruri to Bunraku (人形浄瑠璃と文楽)[Ningyō Jōruri and Bunraku]. Tokyo: Hakusuisha. (pp 30-31)
19. Ibid. (pp 38-39).
20. Tsunoda, Ichiro (1963) Ningyō Geki no Seiritsu ni Kansuru Kenkyu (人形劇の成立に関する研究)[Research Connected with Puppet Theatre]. Osaka: Asahiya Shoten. (pp 42-45).
21. Yoshii, Sadatoshi (1989) Ebisu Shinko to sono Fudo (恵比寿信仰とその不動) [Varieties of Ebisu Worship]. Tokyo: Rikkyokai. (page 28).
22. Yoshii, Taro (1919) Nishinomiya no Kugutsu (西宮の久々津) [The Ritual Puppet Arts of Nishinomiya]. In, Minzoku to Rekishi 1:1 (民族と歴史) [History and The Folk]. (page 31).
23. Yoshii Sadatoshi: Chief Priest, Nishinomiya Ebisu Shrine. Interview with author, April 16 2001.
24. Yoshii Sadatoshi: Chief Priest, Nishinomiya Ebisu Shrine. Interview with author, April 16 2001.
25. The Constitution of Japan (1947), The Hanover Historical Texts Project.
26. The Constitution of Japan (1947), The Hanover Historical Texts Project.
27. Ohara, Yasuo (1993) Shinto Shirei no Kenkyu (神道指令の研究) [Researching Shinto Hierarchies]. Tokyo Harushobo. (page 44).
28. Tsunedata, Mayumi (1984) Gendai Shakai to Jinja (現代の社会と神社) [Shrines and the Modern World]. Tokyo: Kokugakuin Daigaku. (pp 30-31).
29. Yoshii Sadatoshi: Chief Priest, Nishinomiya Ebisu Shrine. Interview with author, January 5 2002.
30. Yoshii Sadatoshi: Chief Priest, Nishinomiya Ebisu Shrine. Interview with author, April 16 2001.
31. Yoshii Sadatoshi: Chief Priest, Nishinomiya Ebisu Shrine. Interview with author, April 16 2001.
32. Yoshii Sadatoshi: Chief Priest, Nishinomiya Ebisu Shrine. Interview with author, April 16 2001.
33. From the characters 小 (sho) [small] and 帝 (kei/mikado) [emperor].
34. Yoshii Sadatoshi: Chief Priest, Nishinomiya Ebisu Shrine. Interview with author, January 5 2002.
35. Uno, Masato (1987) Kigyo no Jinja (企業の神社) [The Shrine as Business]. Tokyo: Jinja Shimpo. (page 54).
36. Yoshii Sadatoshi: Chief Priest, Nishinomiya Ebisu Shrine. Interview with author, April 16 2001.
37. Uno, Masato (1987) Kigyo no Jinja (企業の神社) [The Shrine as Business]. Tokyo: Jinja Shimpo. (pp 66-69).
38. Even at the Grand Ise Shrine, many of the rites to Amaterasu which had long been off limits to the public were either scaled down or opened up to the curious worshipper.
39. Yoshii, Sadatoshi (1989) Ebisu Shinko to sono Fudo (恵比寿信仰とその不動) [Varieties of Ebisu Worship]. Tokyo: Rikkyokai. (page 45).
40. Yoshii Sadatoshi: Chief Priest, Nishinomiya Ebisu Shrine. Interview with author, April 16 2001.
41. Yoshii Sadatoshi: Chief Priest, Nishinomiya Ebisu Shrine. Interview with author, January 5 2002.
42. As the centre of Ebisu worship, and the deity's primary place of enshrinement, Nishinomiya's post-war treatment of the Tōka Ebisu Festival set the standard for all affiliated shrines around Japan.
43. Yoshii Sadatoshi: Chief Priest, Nishinomiya Ebisu Shrine. Interview with author, January 5 2002.
44. Yoshii Sadatoshi: Chief Priest, Nishinomiya Ebisu Shrine. Interview with author, January 5 2002.
45. Yoshii Sadatoshi: Chief Priest, Nishinomiya Ebisu Shrine. Interview with author, January 5 2002.
46. Perinbanayagam, R. S. (1985) Signifying Acts: Structure and Meaning in Everyday Life. Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press. (pp 61-62).
47. Perinbanayagam, R. S. (1985). Signifying Acts: Structure and Meaning in Everyday Life. Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press. (pp 61-62).
48. Mr. Ito Shinichi: Director, Kobe Marine Insurance. Interview with author, January 5 2002.

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About the author

Darren-Jon Ashmore was educated at the University of Sheffield, where he gained a PhD in Cultural Anthropology in the specific area of Japanese traditional theatre. His main area of research is the survival and revival of Japanese theatre arts and he has a special interest in puppet theatre history. He is currently associate professor of Anthropology at Akita International University.

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Copyright: Darren-Jon Ashmore
This page was created on 15 October 2007.

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