#thread So this is another of my favorite local stories from Sendai, which I call "The Kids Find Bishamonten a Home." Intersection of military history, #japanesehistory, and folklore, in this story from the part of Sendai where I attended school.
Once upon a time, Date Masamune was laying siege to Kitanome Castle, in Miyagi County of Mutsu Province, where he was expanding his power northward from his original lands on the southern side of Mutsu.
The castle, held by Kurino Daizen, was shrouded in black fog and difficult to see, much less attack. Word had it that this was because Bishamonten, guardian deity of the castle, was protecting it.

(Bishamonten, at right, as depicted by an artist in 1866)
Masamune promised Bishamonten that if he aided the Date armies, that the Date would build him a far more splendid pavilion.

Soon after, the fog parted and the castle fell.
After Masamune founded his new capital at Sendai, he kept his promise– to a point. If Bishamonten would grant wishes to friend and foe alike, he was unreliable.
The Date brought Bishamonten– in the statue that served as his vessel– to the Aramachi district of Sendai, and just…abandoned him there.
Aramachi's on the south side of modern central Sendai, north of where the Hirose River turns to join the mighty Natori for the last few miles to waiting embrace of the shimmering Pacific.
Before long, the neighborhood grownups noticed that their kids were playing, running around carrying Bishamonten on their shoulders. So, if the Date clan wasn’t going to keep its word, then their neighborhood would enshrine Bishamonten in a shrine they’d build themselves.
They even procured a bell to offer for the new shrine, but had no way to raise it to hang. Here the kids again stepped in– raising the bell by slipping planks underneath until it could be secured in hanging position.
Bishamonten, they say, was delighted at how clever the kids were. He promised the kids anything they desired. The kids were unanimous in their wish: they wanted to never have to carry their baby siblings on their backs again. (This was common practice until the mid-20th century)
And so, in all the generations since, the people of Aramachi don’t have their kids carry baby siblings on their backs. At his festivals, the children hold sumo wrestling matches as offerings to Bishamonten, who, the story goes, loves to watch them.
I don't know if the tradition survives to this day-- but the temple the kids helped build, still called Kosodate Bishamon (Childrearing Bishamon) does. I visited it in 2005. Here's one of my pictures: instagram.com/p/Bl_TE1-gu83
My major sources for this story are the official Miyagi Prefecture History, as well as folklorist Mihara Ryokichi's book Kyodoshi Sendai Mimibukuro.
I didn't know this story when I lived in Sendai; I only learned it about a decade after the fact. I wonder: how much more local folklore will I find, as I continue to study, and when I hopefully return, one day?

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