Dosojin: The Travelers' Guardian Deity
Dosojin is the travelers' guardian deity. Dosojin is the god of a road
or a boundary in general, some believe that it is also the god protecting
them, avoiding misfortune, matchmaking, keeping a happy home. Generally,
Dosojin stands on a mountain ridge, a street corner, a folk in the road
and a boundary, but sometimes it is dedicated in a shrine.
Villagers in ancient Japan thought that the boundary was the shield between this world and the next, the foreign land or the underworld, it was also the road to go there, and the gods, spirits, external enemies and epidemics would come along. Dosojin is the god dedicated by the villagers to protect their villages. The faith to Dosojin has been built up with syncretic fusions among many beliefs, and it is not clear the characteristics of believing in Dosojin.
Goshintai, an object of worship enshrined in general are stones, so Goshintais are made of natural stones, round stones and rocks formations resembling male and female genital organs, and some of Goshintais are statues of gods having carved the name of gods on them. In Chubu region, most Goshintai are pairs of carved male and female gods. In Yamanashi they are round stones and they are sculptures in the full round. These styles of Goshintais are the basic forms of Dosojins. There are some other forms such as big straw dolls and wooden dolls in some regions. Anyway, those Goshintais are put on the boundaries of the villages to block the way when epidemics and some other evil spirits try to enter into.
Dosojin often appears in classics; Dosojin were a pair of male and female dolls put on the corner of streets in Kyoto in Heian period (794 - 1185). And there used to be traditions that they put offerings on the corners on boundaries when travelers and passerby pass them though there would not be Dosojins.
In addition, there are some trees and rocks where have gods appeared on,
it is very natural that they are connected to their traditions and legends.
Then those objects become the place where people would see out strips of
paper of Tanabata festival and dolls of other traditional festivals. When
epidemics start spreading, shimenawas, sacred straw festoons, are hung
up on the trees and the rocks to block the way. Sometimes, Sagicho Festivals
are held around them. At Konodai in Ichikawa City
, there remains the tradition of Tsujigiri. The festivals for Dosojin are
held in each villages and regions in different ways.
Finally, Dosojin is dedicated in different ways and in different names of gods called Saenokami and Dorokujin in one village and in one region. The faith to Dosojin has strongly and deeply regional characteristics. Dosojin is also called in many names in Japan, for example, Sainokami, Saenokami, Dorokujin, Chimatanokami, Kunokami, Funokami, Funadonokami, Michinokami, Niosan and so forth. Sometimes Dosojin is forced to consider in Sarutahiko no Mikoto, Izanagi no Mikoto and Izanami no Mikoto. The meanings of the boundary are not only geographic but also spiritual, so the faith of Dosojin is sometimes connected to the faith of Zizo.