What started as a soft chant… ‘wa shai… wa shai… wa shai’, slowly began to get louder and louder as a group of men and women slowly make their way down the road carrying what is known as an Omikoshi.
The Omikoshi is a portable Shinto shrine used for the Gods. Famously used during a Matsuri (Japanese Festival), the omikoshi usually comes in the shape of a small building with roofs and pillars. Normally, the omikoshi will be fixed on 4 poles which are used for carrying as it is quite heavy and requires a number of people to carry it on their shoulders.
In Japan, customarily every temple have their own omikoshi whereby on special occasion they will parade the omikoshi around the neighbourhood as a symbol for the deity to visit its worshipers.
It is the Japanese tradition for the bearers to chant and bounce the omikoshi while carrying it. When asked why do they need to bounce the omikoshi, some of the locals replied by saying the harder they bounce the more luck and prosperity they will receive. As for the meaning of the chant, though it sounds like a word from the Japanese vocabulary, nobody seems to know what it means.
The parade of the Omikoshi is definitely an event not to be missed. Usually occur during the summer, you can find the parade at many different parts of Japan. In fact some temples even allows visitors to join the fun and participate as an omikoshi bearer.
It was such an exhilirating feeling witnessing the omikoshi parade up close. You can’t help getting absorbed by the intensity of the moment.