Gold 2016 Editorial / Photo Essay

Zaido

  • Photographer
    Yukari Chikura

The Great East Japan Earthquake occurred at 2:46 p.m. on the 11th of March 2011, triggering terrible tsunami waves and a nuclear disaster. It also had a serious impact on local Japanese traditions and regional culture that have been developed and preserved over many decades and centuries. One of these traditions is Zaido, a ritual that has been preserved for over 1300 years. In Zaido ritual, those who dedicate this sacred dance to the gods are called Noshu. They must purify themselves religiously by abstaining from meat, a practice called Shojinkessai. In addition to avoiding meat, many kinds strict rules are imposed on them. For example, Noshu are forbidden to sleep with their wives during Shojinkessai. Noshu must avoid birth in their homes. Some Noshu have to continue Shojinkessai for 48 days. Zaido has faced many challenges to its survival throughout history, such as fires, theft of artifacts, and a lack of successors due to low birth rate. In modern society, practicing Shojinkessai is very difficult. I would like to express my sincere respect for those who keep this valuable tradition alive, and for their passion and love for this great ritual art.