Miya

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Station #41:  The name miya literally means "shrine," and is a shortened word denoting the Atsuta Shrine we see here.  It is one of the most important shrines in the country because it holds one of the three divine symbols of the Japanese imperial throne.  The horse-driving festival shown in the print was held at Atsuta Shrine on June 21.  Hiroshige shows two different teams, each in their happi coats with designs indicating the neighborhood association that sponsored them.  Miya was the biggest station on the old Tokaido and now Nagoya city has grown around the shrine to become the third largest metropolis in Japan.  Here in Miya there were two honjin for daimyo, several waki honjin for retainers and about 250 other inns that catered to pilgrims going to Ise, the daimyo traveling to and from Edo and merchants.  Lodging along the Tokaido was hierarchical, just like the class system enforced by the government.\n\nImage Copyright: Minneapolis Institute of Art We arrived on June 5 in time for another festival.  In the morning there was a solemn ceremony at the main shrine building.  The wooden structures are all beautifully weathered wood, a soft silver color.  The priests' robes are deep red and green. Tall trees cover the Atsuta Shrine grounds creating a green oasis in the middle of the city.  The avenues through the grounds are lined with food and game booths.  As the day progressed, the walkways became more crowded. There were no horses, but there were adorable children from the local school.  They carried their own mikoshi or portable shrines that usually house a local kami or spirit. They put down their shrine and marched two by two to the main shrine, led by their teachers. Every move was recorded by their proud parents, grandparents and flocks of amateur photographers.  I had to jockey my way through them to get my photos. Everyone had to wait a few minutes before they approached the main shrine.  It looks like someone had to be reminded to stay with his partner. It didn't take long before they were sorting the gravel, fascinated with the different shapes and sized. Then the children returned to pick up their shrines and parade out.  Can you see the paper mache figure that's the center of this mikoshi? Yes, it was Mickey Mouse, followed closely by Minnie Mouse.  Now, all together, lift on the count of three! A few students are a little over enthusiastic, but no harm done. Now they're on their way back to school after the great adventure.  Who could resist taking lots of photos?  Not us! Later, groups of older students paraded through the shrine grounds doing the Lion Dance.  Some students who had been carrying the tail get to try out the mask. This parade of adults swept down the broad avenues later in the afternoon.  It was amazing how many volunteers were involved in the celebration. The parade members were young and old with everyone in colorful costumes.  The air was alive with banners with bold calligraphy. The parade was accompanied with drums and conch shell horns.  It was quite exciting and over much too soon.  There were also archery and kendo demonstrations as well as music performances in the shrine museum's auditorium.