Video of a Shrine Ritual

I wanted to share this because usually every year during Golden Week I share a video with my Patreon backers of the “shrine battle” at one of the major local shrines. This year because of the pandemic, the festival was cancelled, but the shrine ceremony went on as it always does and has for over 1000 years. This year, the priests posted a video of the ceremony, which is really really cool.

This is Otaki jinja, a shrine to the goddess Kawakami Gozen. It’s a big shrine located in the far corner of a rural town in a rural prefecture. It’s essentially the last building before you enter the mountains. Legend has it hundreds and hundreds of years ago, she came down from this mountain and taught the locals how to make paper. Since then, Echizen has been an important center of traditional Japanese paper (washi). Incidentally, it has special meaning to me because it is the shrine where my wife and I got married.

In this above video, you can watch as the priests leave early in the morning from the shrine at the base of the mountain. They wear a little backpack like structure, which is a house for a god. Normally instead of a mini backpack, there is a massive and majestic golden palanquin carried by many people. But for social distancing, this year it’s just a priest with a backpack.

They travel to the top of the mountain, and take the goddess and her family out of the shrines where they live during the year. They then take her down, and re-enshrine here in the village for the day.

She visits each of the local shrines at that time, and the local villagers all pay their respects. (This is where the shrine battles take place, because each village doesn’t want the goddess to leave. They want her to stay with them for the year.) Obviously that is not part of this video, but it’s my favorite festival during other years.

Finally, at the end of the day, there is another long ceremony, and she is placed back into the palanquin (or backpack) and carried back up the mountain to her home at the top. Normally, this is done in the pitch black (lit only by hand held paper lanterns), up a dangerous mountain trail, by drunk villagers carrying a heavy golden palanquin. Even when I was not drunk or carrying a shrine, I was afraid of falling and breaking my neck, so I can’t imagine how they do this every year.

Anyway, it’s really cool to get a unique perspective of this ritual, even though it’s unfortunate that the festivals had to be canceled.

A-Yokai-A-Day: Ino Mononoke Roku, Day 21

This year for #ayokaiaday we are looking at the bizarre occurrences which took place at the Ino residence in Miyoshi, Hiroshima, during July of 1749. These occurrences all revolve around a young boy named Ino Heitaro. His story is collected in Ino mononoke roku, a collection of scrolls, books, and legends which collectively form the narrative of a supernatural phenomenon that took place 270 years ago.

It was now three full weeks since Ino Heitaro’s haunting began. Pretty much anybody would need a break by now. Even with all of his bravery, surely Heitaro must be starting to crack?

Heitaro decided to read a book to clear his mind. Unfortunately, there was no way he was going to read uninterrupted…

The shadow of a person appeared on the wall in the light from his lantern. The shadow was so clearly cast that Heitaro could make out every detail. It looked like a human reading a book out loud.

Heitaro watched the shadow’s mouth and tried to read its lips, but he couldn’t make out what it was saying…

December-January Japan Trip

My wife’s brother happened to get married in December, which provided us the perfect excuse to go back to Japan for a short trip. With the Christmas and New Years holidays around the corner as well, it made sense to extend the vacation a bit and spend the whole month in Japan. This was awesome not only for the wedding, but because I got to spend my birthday, Christmas, and New Years (the absolute BEST Japanese holiday) in Japan, as well as having the chance to tour around and do some yokai research and collect visual reference for my next book. Continue reading December-January Japan Trip

More Publicity

The Night Parade of One Hundred Demons show opened up last Friday, and it’s been a great success so far. Everyone’s reactions have been very interesting — from kids insisting that they aren’t scared while gritting their teeth and refusing to look anywhere but at the floor, to adults doing pretty much the same thing. I’m really enjoying meeting fans and hearing what they have to say about the book. One family brought in their tattered copy for me to sign. Their kids love it so much they take it everywhere they go, and it looked like it could have been 20 years old instead of only a couple of months.

Here are a couple of articles about the show. The first one is from Urala, Fukui prefecture’s monthly magazine. They got my website address wrong (.com instead of .net), but oh well. The article looks nice anyway, and it’s an honor to be in Urala:

Urala article
Urala, August 2012

On the first day of the show, a reporter who really loves yokai came from the Fukui Shinbun to take some photos and write an article. He was squirming and making faces while reading each yokai description, and letting out yelps and shouts. But he stayed for an hour and came back again later in the day. He said really enjoyed the show, and he wrote a great article to go with it:

Fukui Shinbun article
Fukui Shinbun, July 28, 2012

If you haven’t come to the show yet, please do! I’ll be there every weekend and sporadically throughout the week until August 16th!

Night Parade Gallery Show at Space Oichi

日本語版はこちらです。

In Japan, summer is the season for scary things (unlike in the US, when horror revolves around late fall and Halloween). Summer is when the new scary movies come out, when ghost stories are told, and when creatures from beyond are said to return to our world. The idea is that being scared chills your body and helps you beat the summer heat, but this also has more ancient roots going back thousands of years — the same roots that lead to the superstitions of the dead returning to our world and the boundaries of the spirit world being weaker during the Obon holiday.

As such, summer is the perfect time to talk about yokai! And in the spirit of keeping everyone cool, I’m having a gallery show featuring illustrations from The Night Parade of One Hundred Demons next month in Fukui City.

The show will feature a broad range of yokai, from the funny and cute, to the weird and creepy, to the downright terrifying. If you can make it to Fukui city this summer, definitely come check it out!

Hyakki Yagyou poster
Hyakki Yagyou, 7/26-8/16 @ Space Oichi

The full dates of the show are July 27 until August 16, 11 am to 7:30 pm. The location is Space Oichi, Apple Building 2F, right behind Seibu and above Seatle’s Best Coffee and Theatre Cinque. Hope to see you there!

Night Parade in the News

Today the Night Parade of One Hundred Demons appeared in the Fukui Shinbun!

5/23 Fukui Shinbun
the article

Translation:

Echizen’s resident American, illustrator Matthew Meyer (29), has published a book of 100 Japanese yokai with English descriptions. The title, “The Night Parade of One Hundred Demons” means “Hyakki Yagyou” in Japanese. He started work in January of 2011, and completed the illustrations, book layout, translations, etc. in about 1 year and 2 months. It includes 100 yokai from famous places around Japan, each with its own illustration and explanation of its history. Our town’s beloved Mt. Hino is also featured among the illustrations. Mr. Meyer first came to Japan as a college student, and spent a month-long homestay in Kanazawa. He grew to love Japanese art. Later moved to Echizen city and married a local girl in 2009. After May, he will accompany his wife to the US for 2 years while she studies at a university in Pennsylvania. “I worked for many days and months, but completing the book was very fun,” says Mr. Meyer. “Next I want to illustrate and publish a book with 100 famous views of Philadelphia.” The yokai book can be purchased at Mr. Meyer’s website.

Have You Ever Seen a Shrine Battle?

Last week was Golden Week, an annual string of consecutive National Holidays which makes for about a week off of work. One of those days is Children’s Day, and the locals in Echizen have an interesting way of celebrating: they fight each other while carrying a golden shrine on their shoulders. It’s one of my favorite festival events of the year, so I wanted to show some of the activities to you.

Let me start with the story behind the battle. Echizen is home to the shrine dedicated Kawakamigozen, the goddess of papermaking. (Echizen has been a major papermaking center for centuries). Like most shrines, once a year, the gods and goddesses are taken out of their main shrines to visit the smaller local shrines around them, and then to spend a good portion of the year up in a mountaintop shrine, deep within their natural surroundings. The Otaki shrine, the head shrine for Kawakamigozen, does this on Children’s Day every year. Continue reading Have You Ever Seen a Shrine Battle?