■ The Sanka or Sanwa were a nomadic people of Japan of unknown origin. They are often referred to as Japanese Gypsies--in Japanese 日本のジプシー--as many Japanese people are unfamiliar with them.
The 山窩 are distinct from the traveling 木地師, also known as 木地屋, who made objects out of wood.
Although the past tense is used in this entry, the 山窩 may still be in existence, hidden from society.
The 山窩 were a nomadic people who evidently moved to warmer climates in winter and cooler climates in summer, probably staying south of the 東北地方. Their name literally means "mountain caves." They roamed the mountains as well as the plains. They lived in tents (天幕), which they called セブリ, the name of one of their sub-groups mentioned below.
The 山窩 were craftspeople, making items such as bamboo baskets (箕 and 籠), raingear (蓑 and 被り笠) and wooden shoes (下駄).
They also made hooks for the fireplace known as 自在鉤, though they referred to them as 天人 (literally, "heaven people"). The 山窩 considered the hooks to be holy and forbade non-山窩 from using them (Note 1). See 自在鉤 for pictures of such hooks, though these were not crafted by 山窩.
They would come to villages to barter for food and other items in exchange for their wares or repair services. They also gathered, hunted and fished in rivers for food.
They had an argot that included some words from that used by the 香具師 (mountebanks and show-people) at fairs and festivals. They are rumored to have had a separate writing system, though concrete proof is lacking.
After World War II, the mandatory education requirement among other factors led to the disappearance of their lifestyle, which was last confirmed in the 1960s.
◆ Alternate names
The 山窩 are also called 箕造 or 箕作り. Citations for pronunciation of this word on the Internet can be found as both みつくり and みづくり. Dictionaries list basket-making as みつくり, though that does not necessarily mean that both pronunciations have not been used.
They have also been called 箕直し(みなおし) (basket repairers), テンバモン/テンバモノ, オゲ, ポン, ポンスケ, and 河原乞食.
According to 小泉首相は多分、いつか撃たれる number 71, the 山窩 have also been called ヤマモン, probably just meaning mountain people.
Also according to this source, they evidently disliked the name 山窩, and called themselves ショケンシ(世間師), ケンシ, and ヤコモン. Other names they had for themselves were ナデン in Kanto and ケンタ in Kansai.
There were four groups, the セブリ, ノアイ, オゲ and ポン (Note 1). The first is their word for "tent," and the last two are nicknames as mentioned above.
Literature on the 山窩 includes:
◆ Other references
See Anime Companion - S - for a short English reference.
日本史広辞典, edited by 日本史広辞典編集委員会 and published by 山川出版社, 1997.
人類学雑誌, the Journal of the Anthropological Society of Nippon. See http://wwwsoc.nacsis.ac.jp/jinrui/as/ashistory.htm for an explanation of the name.
Note 1. 閼伽出甕 論考集「新版・山窩 第四部 サンカ近代発生説」(22)
This entry was created by Benjamin Barrett.