This assembled mikoshi mamori ("mikoshi guard") is produced by Miyamoto Unosuke Shoten Co., Ltd. in collaboration with Asakusa Shrine.
The Sanja Matsuri (Three Shrine Festival) is held over a three-day period in May, primarily by the parishioners (known as "ujiko") of the 44 neighbourhoods around Asakusa Shrine. Among the festival rituals, the "togyo" procession of close to 100 mikoshi (a palanquin transporting the spirits of deities) including the three mikoshi of Asakusa Shrine, is a soul-stirring sight.
A mikoshi is a palanquin that the "goshintai" (object containing the spirit of a deity) or "mitamashiro" (object worshipped as a representation of a divine spirit) rides in during a Shinkosai festival. As the parishioners shoulder the mikoshi and make their way through the Shinko procession, they perform the "tamafuri" ritual of swinging the mikoshi up and down and side-to-side, as well as shaking it roughly to reinvigorate the spirit of the deity riding in the mikoshi. This is believed to enhance the divine power of the deity and bring about abundant harvests and good catches, business prosperity, and protection from plague.
So that people can become more familiar with the original meaning of these festivals and mikoshi, Assembled Mikoshi Mamori was designed based on the tradition of cut-out and assemble toys, known as "kirikumi toro" and "kumiage-e", etc., which were very popular in the Edo period and afterwards..
The Ichinomiya shrine is decorated with Chinese phoenixes, and the Ninomiya and Sannomiya shrines are decorated with plantain lilies.
Taiko drums are beaten vigorously, portable shrines are paraded through the streets, and shouts and Hayashi (musical accompaniment) echo loudly. Such a festival scene is a lively seasonal tradition. Miyamoto Unosuke Co., Ltd., established in 1861, has been supporting the festivals and traditional performing arts that Japanese people have inherited from generation to generation. The company manufacturers, sells, repairs, and rents beautiful and sturdy portable shrines and drums that produce deep tones, as well as Noh gagaku (traditional Japanese court music) instruments and ritual equipment.
“Festivals, which have the power to bring people together, and traditional performing arts, which are proudly presented to the world, are the unique culture that characterizes Japan. In today’s age of globalization, they are playing an increasingly important role.”
For this reason, President Yoshihiko Miyamoto says he is proud of his job of protecting and nurturing this culture and passing it on to future generations. The products are made by a group of craftsmen who pursue the highest quality.
The process of making taiko drums begins with the search for the best materials. The wood used to make the long-bodied drums is domestic wood that is over 100 years old. The wood is carefully dried for three to five years to prevent distortion, and then carefully finished with a hand plane. The leather is treated with a unique natural process. While stretching it with a mallet, the sound is checked and fine-tuned, then stretched over the body to produce a deep and elegant sound.
The making of portable shrines is the fruit of as many as 20 different kinds of specialized craftsmanship. In addition to woodworkers who create the framework of the portable shrine, the lacquerers who apply lacquer to the roof and base, the craftsmen who are in charge of the metal ornaments that decorate the various parts of the portable shrine, and the portable shrine craftsmen who oversee the entire process work in unison to painstakingly create the portable shrine. The “Shigeyoshi Miyamoto” sign attached to the completed portable shrine is said to be proof of the painstaking work of all the craftsmen.
In order to widely pass on the culture of the festival to future generations, in recent years the company has been actively involved in new initiatives. One such project is “HIBIKUS”, a taiko drum school, and “kaDON”, an online taiko drum lesson program for international audiences, to spread the appeal of taiko drums. Another project born out of the company’s commitment to “Made in Tokyo” is “Mori wo Tsukuru Taiko (Creating Forests with Taiko Drums).” This project aims to raise awareness of both the environment and manufacturing by having Tokyo artisans create drums using cedar wood from Tokyo, and then publicizing the process. A live performance of Japanese traditional instruments using these drums was held in March 2021, and was well received. The scope of festivals and traditional performing arts culture is steadily expanding.