Posted by: thewhitesintokyo | September 6, 2009

Gaijin Mikoshi Jiyugaoka 2009

Mikoshi 2009

This past weekend, I had an amazing opportunity to participate in a Japanese festival with many other foreigners.  The French Embassy teamed up with the city of Jiyugaoka (in Tokyo) to sponsor the matsuri, where gaijin (foreigners…me) could participate in a tradition dating back to the 8th century.  ***As I learned from one of the comments on this post, this is the ONLY all-foreigner mikoshi shrine in Japan.  That.  Is awesome.***

We were given a “happy coat,” headband, and directions that the mikoshi was heavy and we should be careful.  Then, we all lined up around the thing and lifted.  That’s it.  For the next three hours, we carried the shrine to seven different stopping points around the town.  At each point, we would shake the shrine up and down, side to side to “wake up” the deity inside and allow it to spread good luck to the people of Jiyugaoka.  People joined our mini-parade, and for once, took photos and videos of us rather than it being the opposite.

Now, this sounds all well and good, but when you watch the video below, you’ll see how incredibly difficult this was.  If, even with 15-20 healthy adults holding the thing up, it still felt heavy and each pump up and down was painful to our throbbing shoulders, the shrine and supporting wood frame must have weighed a substantial amount.

Two highlights:

1.) At each stopping point, the locals had prepared (free) food and drinks for us.  At the going rate of $20.00 for a small watermelon, some of these stops were just what you needed after screaming your head off carrying around the mikoshi.

2.) We were not only able to carry our own mikoshi, but were able to join in with the larger mikoshi carried by local Japanese residents.  Although there was a significant height difference between my shoulders and the people surrounding me, it was incredible to feel the difference between the two groups.  The Japanese group literally moved as one block.  All fifty feet and twenty five shoulders were shuffling together as we chanted a variety of songs and shouts.

One of our friends had heard about the Gaijin Mikoshi and spread the word to many teachers at our school.  So, thanks to Jeff and Kim for getting us in on this amazing event.  You can bet I’ll be there again in 2010.

Rachael’s much more eloquent blog post about the mikoshi event:



  1. That’s what I call “living in Japan.” Participating in the community and learning about the culture distinguishes you from the typical tourist. What an amazing experience.

  2. Great vid and write up! Glad you guys could make it. Kim tells me the old guy “running the show”, Ooshiba-san, says that the mikoshi we were carrying/shaking is the only “all-gaijin” mikoshi in Japan.

  3. That was so cool. I liked being behind the camera…definitely entertaining!

  4. Very interesting! Great job on the video. Thanks!

  5. I hope there was lots of sake afterwards. That shrine looks heavy.

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