A deity has danced across the ocean for a 1000-years : A Shinto ritual, Iwai Island

♪Hoh Hoho Aayeya Horan E Yowyasa no Sa♪

Powering a traditional rowing boat called a “Kaidenmasen”, 20 men start pulling their (almost) 3m long oars in perfect unison in time with the “Horan Enya” sea shanty.

Before the voyage begins, a Shinto ritual called “Kanmai”, which has been performed for over a thousand years, blesses the boat and crew.

Viewed from above, Iwai Island looks like a ♡.

Looking to the left, you can see Hime jima, which seems to pop up from Kunisaki Peninsula.

The warm interaction that connects this ocean path is the origin of “Kanmai”.

Over 1,100 years ago…

A group from Imi (a village in Kunisaki peninsula across from Hime jima) was caught in a storm, but was saved by the people of Iwai Island. In return, they taught the Iwai islanders how to cultivate wheat and about Shinto rituals. Since that time, Iwai Islanders having been paying annual visits to a shrine on Imi. On the other hand, the deity crosses the sea from Imi to visit them.

This ancient interaction still continues…

Coincidentally at the same time as the summer Olympics, it is held once every 4 years.

In August 2012, as the London Olympics was about to close, I got a call from a friend asking if I would like to row Kaidenma!

Of course, I went to Iwai Island willingly!

Sailing Kaidenmasen to meet and greet a group at the associated offshore Shrine…

All that can be seen are the shadows of islands and the boundless ocean. After a while, the fleet appears in the distance. This scene probably hasn’t changed since ancient times… In that moment I realized that the spectacle unfolding in front of me was the same as a thousand years ago! The festival had just started, but I was already (almost) moved to tears.

Kanmai continues for 5 days.

A Kagura (Shinto theatrical dance) is dedicated everyday in accordance with ancient ritual, and then the boat in which the deity rides goes back the way it came.

While I was there, the island seemed filled with people who did nothing but smile. I felt like the deity was continually blessing us.

The next “Kanmai” will be in 2016 right after the Rio Olympics close.

The deity crosses the ocean and alights on a summer’s day. Iwai Island is wrapped in ♡ like no other place in the world.

Kanmai in Iwai Island (Yamaguchi prefecture’s designated intangible folklore cultural asset)

Address: Iwai Island Kaminoseki-chō Kumage-gun Yamaguchi

Website: http://www.iwaishima.jp/home/kanmai/kanmai

Setouchi Finder Photo-writer: Masafumi Fujimoto

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Written by

Masafumi Fujimoto

Masafumi Fujimoto

Masafumi Fujimoto Hi there! My name is Masafumi Fujimoto. Until the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011, I was engaged in editing production at an advertising company in Tokyo. However, the earthquake was a turning point in my life and I headed home to Yamaguchi. When I arrived, I was extremely energized and motivated to help revitalize the region, but I had a hard time adjusting to the motivation level of the local people. Around that time I met an elderly lady who said: "It doesn't matter if all the people move away from the island; that's just the nature of things. Someday people will come back again." Lessening the tension I’d been feeling, those few words relieved me hugely, and I was able to finally adjust. Since then, I've been involved in writing and editing magazines, and working in advertisement production, as well as doing a little bit of farming. I also spend time walking around Setouchi searching for the many, many voices out there.


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