Japanese Shrine Offers to Dress Foreigners as ‘Maidens’, But Will Some Say Cultural Appropriation?


Female foreigners are flocking to a Japanese shrine that offers an experience package allowing them to play maidens.

Visitors at Amagasaki Ebisu Shrine in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture, play the role of a miko, or a Shinto shrine maiden, for an hour.

Dressed in traditional attire, they learn about a miko’s functions within the shrine, including kagura mai, a sacred dance accompanied by bells and chimes.

The miko dates back to Japan’s prehistoric Jōmon era, when female shamans went into “trances to convey the words of the gods,” according to Japanese site Patternz.

Today, the role has evolved to much simpler tasks such as attending to shrine visitors and dancing kagura. Many women have it as a part-time occupation, SoraNews24 noted.

That being said, not all visiting foreigners come from some spiritual calling. According to Nobuo Otagaki, the shrine’s chief priest, the increasing interest comes as the role in the hit anime film “Your Name” gained popularity, Sankei reported.

As such, it’s safe to question that the paid experience could cater for cultural appropriation, or the adoption of a culture other than one’s own and its reduction to entertainment or just-to-look-cool purposes. Others are more audacious and take it to unbelievable levels.

Otagaki said that most of the foreign visitors hail from Taiwan, though some have arrived from places such as Australia and Fiji. More than 150 groups have participated to date.

What do you think about the experience package? Does it become cultural appropriation when coming from a place of entertainment? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Featured Image via Flickr / m_nietzsche (CC BY 2.0)