Sacred Space and Japanese Art at the Spencer Museum of Art
Entry by Matt Hobart
This work by Inui Tai is one of several that focuses on festivals. It shows a type of Shinto festival called the fighting festival, the largest of which takes place every October in Himeji. The distinctive aspects of the festival revolve around men carrying mikoshi (portable structures holding kami, Shinto deities) andyatai (extremely heavy floats). The energetic festival gets its name from the ritual action of the participants forcing the mikoshi near, and sometimes into, each other. Inui’s print depicts the essence of the festival: the bearers, denoted by their headbands, carry the three mikoshi near each other as a crowd watches.
The energy found in the festival serves as an important basis of sacred space. The festival is held to celebrate the return of the kami to Earth from the spiritual realm, and the characteristic fighting and revelry are intended to please and entertain them on the shrine grounds. The stark contrasts found in the print highlight the lines of the people carrying the mikoshi and express a vibrant energy. This energy and ritual “fighting” form a connection between the people and the kami. In the print, the spiritual space of the festival encompasses all, as those who carry the mikoshi blend in with everyone else.