Have you heard of or watched the popular Japanese anime movie: Your Name (Kimi no Nawa)? If so, you would recall that the main heroine, Mitsuha, worked as a miko — a Shinto shrine maiden — and that was absolutely one of the many parts of the movie that captured my fancy. After all, when I saw her perform kaguramai (a Shinto ritual ceremonial dance with bells and chimes) as a miko in one of the movie’s scenes, I was utterly enthralled.
The profession instantly got me curious and I was glad when I found out that as a visitor, I could head over to Hyogo Prefecture’s Amagasaki Ebisu Shrine in Amagasaki City of Japan (near Osaka) to sign up for a miko experience package — and so, I did!
For a day (or technically, an hour) I did not only learn about the profession but I also got to try being a miko, and you bet that was such an enriching and fun affair!
Photo from Richard Rigby/Shutterstock
◘◘ What is a miko?
A miko (巫女) in Japan in a shrine maiden that is trained to perform certain rituals and tasks in order to support Shinto priest(s) in a traditional shrine. They are not be mistaken as fortunetellers or mediums, and as per the fact that they are ‘maidens’, miko must be unmarried females (often times they are priests’ daughters).
◘◘ What is Shinto?
Shinto or kami-no-michi is a polytheistic religion in Japan that primarily revolves around the veneration of many deities known as kami (gods or spirits) or supernatural entities that are believed to inhabit all things. Today, Shinto remains to be the country’s major religion alongside Buddhism with Shinto shrines being the places of worship and homes of kami.
◘◘ How did the miko experience came about in Amagasaki Ebisu Shrine?
Back in 2016, the Amagasaki Hospitality Group proposed this idea to the head priest of Amagasaki Ebisu Shrine, Nobuyo Otagaki, and since then, the program was established as a way for tourists to further understand Japanese culture.
TRIVIA: The Shrine is dedicated to Ebisu, a kami or deity of luck and prosperity, and he is one of the 7 Gods of Fortune. With its location, it’s also a prime choice for being one of the fun day trips from Osaka that you can do!
◘◘ What does that 1-hour miko experience entail?
– Shinto shrine and miko lesson by a guide
– Try a suzu or Shinto bell and have a glimpse of the kaguramai dance
– A chance to dress up in a miko attire and take photos around the shrine
It helps to note that a Miko’s traditional attire is a red hakama (long trouser-like skirt tied with a bow), a white kosode (kimono robe), and some white or red hair ribbons. In Shintoism, the color white symbolizes purity and the garment placed over the kosode during kaguramai or kagura dances is called a chihaya (as pictured above).
Please remember by the way, that this is not a cosplaying event as it is more of an experience to garner further understanding of Shinto faith or the miko profession.
You’ve probably already done a kimono rental before, so why not give a miko experience a try? As you can see, it’s surely going to be memorable!
- What do you think of this miko experience? Would you like to try it?
- Or have you tried it before? How was it?