Sannō Matsuri

Fabricating Festivals in Modern Japan

In: Journal of Religion in Japan
Author: John Breen1
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  • 1 International Research Center for Japanese Studies, Kyoto, Japan

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Abstract

This study of the Sannō Festival at Hiyoshi Taisha in Shiga Prefecture starts from the premise that all festivals reproduce and reinvent themselves over time, obfuscating their origins, typically claiming specious roots in the ancient or mythical past. Firstly, I analyze the Sannō Festival as performed today, drawing on my own festival fieldwork. I then adopt a historical approach, deploying historical sources to recreate the festival in its premodern guise. Finally, I use an array of primary sources to analyze the contested process of making the modern festival. Throughout, I keep within my purview multiple moving parts: the seven kami and the seven shrines that make up the Hiyoshi Taisha complex; the priests and monks who have venerated them, shaping and reshaping the Sannō Festival; and the common people, too, whose participation is key to the modern festival’s vibrancy and success.

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