Ee ja nai ka


Ee ja nai ka

nihongo|Ee ja nai ka|ええじゃないか| was a complex of carnivalesque religious celebrations and communal activities which occurred in many parts of Japan from June 1867 to May 1868, at the end of the Edo period and the start of the Meiji restoration. In West Japan, it appeared at first in the form of dancing festivals, often related to public works, rain magic, or dances for the dead. When sacred amulets were said to have fallen from heaven, thanksgiving celebrations for these amulets were added that could last for several days and effectively took whole rural and urban communities away from everyday life. Gifts were exchanged, youth groups organized mass dancing including crossdressing or wearing costumes. To express their gratitude towards the gods or buddhas who had given them the amulets, many people went on pilgrimages to local or regional sanctuaries. The term "ee ja nai ka" ("Hey, what the hell!", or "Ain't it great?") was a refrain in popular songs performed during these activities and was therefore later chosen as their title.

The great diversity and rivalry of religious practice in premodern Japan was the main driving force behind these events. It has been suggested that religious activists, such as priests and itinerant preachers, played a major role in fabricating the "amulet showers," and some suspects were even caught in action by alert officers. Youth interested in celebrating parties, or in becoming spiritual leaders, were also suspected and in some cases convicted.

"Ee ja nai ka" was not linked to any political agenda; it must not be confused with popular protest or riots. It was not uncommon, however, to express deep concern for the ongoing process of political destabilization that shook Japan at the same time and ultimately led to the downfall of the Tokugawa shogunate. Disgust at the intruding Western and Christian foreigners, disappointment towards the lack of political leadership and other signs of awakening national consciousness were frequently displayed. There is, however, no evidence for any political setup or staging of "Ee ja nai ka", although this was also rumoured. Political authorities, whether they supported or opposed the ruling Tokugawa shogunate, tried various strategies to contain the movement and to restore everyday order, but they never regarded it as a political threat.

In 1981, Japanese director Shohei Imamura produced his film "Eijanaika" which gives a deliberately historically incorrect interpretation of the events but nevertheless catches the unstable and tense atmosphere of the age.Imamura had previously helped write the 1957 Yuzo Kawashima film on the period, nihongo|"Sun in the Last Days of the Shogunate"|幕末太陽傳|Bakumatsu taiyoden. This era was also depicted in the 1969 Kihachi Okamoto-directed Toshiro Mifune film, nihongo|"Red Lion"|赤毛|Akage.

External links

* [http://www.willamette.edu/~rloftus/eejatransl.html Transcripts of the "Ee ja nai ka" chants]


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