Displaying Mythological Characters

Changes in the Meanings of Decorations in the Sawara Grand Festival in Chiba, Japan

In: Journal of Religion in Japan
Shinji Tsukahara[塚原 伸治] Ibaraki University Japan Mito

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Jude Pultz Ibaraki University Japan Mito

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The large figures displayed atop the floats in the Sawara Grand Festival portray characters drawn from mythology and history that have been strongly associated with Japanese nationalism and imperialism. In order to investigate the meanings that these float figures hold for the participants and audience of the festival, this article acknowledges the close relations between folklore and politics and interprets the works themselves as agents that enact emotions and responses, rather than focusing on the creative intentions of the producers. The figure subjects were freely chosen by the people of Sawara, mostly during the prewar period, and were based on characters that were popular at the time—namely, the emperors and their mythological ancestors and historical champions. In the present, however, the figures are rarely seen in light of their nationalistic origins. Instead, they are appreciated more for their aesthetic beauty and as mascots of the various wards of Sawara.

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