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Home » 4. Jinja (Shrines) » Ritual Implements and Vestments
Also read "mikoshi," and commonly called "omikoshi," the shin'yo is a palanquin or portable shrine by means of which the spirit of a kami is conveyed on a formal procession from its permanent location to a temporary resting site (called otabisho) for the duration of a festival. Most are constructed of black lacquered wood, and are built in a variety of shapes, including square, hexagonal, or octagonal. A shin'yo is composed of a base, a body, and a roof. The roof is topped with an image of the mythical Phoenix, or an onion flower finial, and the base is supported upon two parallel wooden beams aligned in the direction of travel for the purpose of bearing the palanquin (in some cases, two lateral beams are also provided). The origin of the shin'yo is unknown, but records state that on the occasion of the building of the Great Buddha in Nara (completed in 750), a purple ren'yo (a type of formal palanquin normally used by the emperor) was used to bear the kami of the Usa Hachiman Shrine from Kyushu to the capital. With the spread of the cult of "vengeful spirits" (goryō) in the Heian period, shin'yo came to be used nationwide as means for transporting the kami. Those in use today show great variety, and include both unadorned and showy types, small versions borne by a small number of people and larger palanquins borne by many carriers. While shin'yo were originally meant to be carried by the parishioners (ujiko) of a shrine, some in urban locations are carried with the participation of ordinary visitors as well.

-Motosawa Masashi
Mikoshi at the Kanda Matsuri

Tokyo, 2005

©Ichida Masataka

Mikoshi of Hakui Jinja fording the river in a boat.

Ishikawa Prefecture, 2008

©Ichida Masataka

Worshippers carrying a portable shrine (shin'yo) during the Sanja Festival in Asakusa.

Tokyo, 2005

©Ōsawa Kōji

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