Happy Easter! La Semana Santa and Japanese Mikoshi

April 18, 2014 Juju Kurihara 1 Comment


These days I hear people say "Happy Easter" to each other and I see egg decorations everywhere. Japanese people celebrate almost all major festivals in the Western world including Halloween but still the Easter isn´t common. A friend of mine in London taught me this event as "egg shaped chocolate season", which suits me perfectly and I eat them happily.




In Spain it´s called "La Semana Santa", the week of saint and there are many religious events. The most famous one is in the south of Spain, Sevilla´s prosesiones. People prepare whole year for this march. I have seen on TV many Spanish men and women crying really hard because it rained and the march had been cancelled. This Semana Santa looks religious enough but I guess they rather cry for their effort they´ve been put entire year only for one day. I would also be very disappointed. 


But what I wanted to talk about today isn´t the Spanish culture but a comparison between the Japanese culture.

For example in Spain, people carry out the saint on their shoulder and walk around the neighbourhood. While in Japan, people carry out the local god in Mikoshi (神輿), a potable shrine and also walk around the neighbourhood.  

prosession 1 mikoshi 1   


In both countries, there are so so many people on the street to see the float to come. They go to small back streets too. In both countries people came to see it by believing it´ll give them some sort of luck or protection during the year. 

prosesion 5 mikoshi 2


The float is usually led by other performances; children, vanguard or dancers. Yes, I can see them in both Spain and Japan. 

procesion-17 mikoshi 3


Of course, there are music bands, in uniform. I´ve seen children playing instruments in Spanish part too, and a military band in Japanese side.

prosesion music mikoshi 4


They have a huge one too. In Japan, this is a typical festival in Osaka called Danjiri (檀尻), which means float in Kansai dialect (関西弁/Kansai-ben) and it´s huge. Danjiri is a quite dynamic festival and men who pull the float are constantly running, which often causes the injury of some people both on the street and on the float. Some houses are destroyed every year but it´s a sort of honour for the owner of the house as I heard.  

prosession 2 danjiri


After carrying all day those heavy float, you get scratch and after many years, you get calluses, which is called Mikoshi-dako (神輿ダコ). They are very big and ugly but I would dear to tell them since they are proud of being an experienced float carrier. 

Procesiones-Sevilla mikoshi 5


Although these festivals are held in different season: in spring in Spain and in summer in Japan, what they do is quite similar and every year when I saw the prosesión in Spain, it reminded me summer festivals in Japan. I admit that I was a little scared to see people walk around in a long gown with long pointed hat like mask, which only has two holes for the eye. They give me different impression but it has a completely different meaning for Spanish people so what can I say? While it doesn´t show so much about religion in Japan. It could be because I´ve never seen the very first part when the shinto priest make a ceremony to take the local god out of the shrine. For me, it´s a pure summer festival and reminds me heavy hard wooden pole banging my shoulder and as a child, I just wanted it to end. 

Once I started to see the similarity, I could even enjoy Spanish prosesión. In different of the world, people do similar things. I think it´s fascinating and it makes me wonder how or if they connected. 

Do you have a similar festival in your country? How it is? I like to hear from you. Happy Easter to all!



More about Japanese festivals

Seijin no Hi


Kanamara Matsuri

Summer Festival


Momono Sekku

3rd of February


1 Comment

  1. Roberta 8 years Reply

    In Italy we have – same as Spain – the Settimana Santa (Holy week) with “processioni” similar to those you are showing in the pictures. This is referred to the Christian (Catholic) calendar of Easter Holidays and the representation of the events that took to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in a week time. I guess the Omikoshi is dedicated each time to a different god/ value/ aspect of life. Is that right?

    In the Semana Santa/Settimana Santa, the object of the representation is the series of happenings and evil of humankind who rejected / did not understand the value of the teachings of Jesus. The purpose is to remind not to make the same mistake by disregarding those teachings and to have people “join again” in their hearts the faith in resurrection.

    Now you made me curious (!): when did the Japanese festivals begin? what is, usually, the purpose of showing and carrying in the streets? Are the Japanese festivals followed as in the past or have times changed the participation of people? Do the religious men promote the events or are they popular for showing and renovating a common tradition but with no religious aim?

    Do you see any common ground in the meaning, too? Or do you feel they have in common “just” the way human beings across borders and cultures choose to share their belief?

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