"Oshirasama" (also written おしらさま, お白様, オシラ様, オシラサマ) is a god of the home (Shinto) worshipped in the Tohoku region of Japan, generally considered the god of silkworm, god of agriculture, and god of horses.
The shintai (an object of worship housed in a Shinto shrine and believed to contain the spirit of a deity) is a stick about one shaku (unit of distance approximately equal to 30.3 cm) long made of a mulberry tree, with the faces of men and women or the face of a horse written or carved on its tip, and dressed with many layers of clothing made of pieces of cloth. It is usually enshrined on the kamidana (a household Shinto altar) or tokonoma (alcove in a traditional Japanese room where art or flowers are displayed).
The festival day for Oshirasama is called 'meinichi' (anniversary of the death), and it is held on the 16th of January, March, and September of the old lunar calendar. On the meinichi, Oshirasama is taken out of the kamidana, food and alcohol offering to the gods are offered, and a new clothing is worn on top of the previous one (this is called 'Osendaku'). Itako (The Japanese shaman), a blind miko (a shrine maiden), chants a sutra for kamiyose (to invite god and hear an oracle) facing the Oshirasama, and makes it dance while chanting a saimon (address to the gods), holding Oshirasama in her hands.
Only with Oshirasama, enshrinement is referred to as asobu (to play), and this event is called 'Oshiraasobase' or 'Oshiraasobi.'
Additionally, at Kudo-ji Temple in Hirosaki City, Aomori Prefecture, 'Oshira-ko' is held on May 15.
Furthermore, the oshira-saimon (ritual song) told when two dolls of Oshirasama are used to make them play, is told by 'Itako,' a miko who performs the religious service for Oshiragami, and some say it simultaneously tells the origin of Saruga-jinja Shrine told by 'Kiman-choja Monogatari,' 'Mano-choja Monogatari,' 'Iwakiyama-ichidaiki,' and SAKANOUE no Tamuramaro.
The tradition of Oshiragami involves praying to a god for the cure of women's diseases, the god of eyes, the god of children, and the guardian deity of agriculture including rice planting, weeding, and harvesting of grains. Among them, for the 'god worshipped by hunters,' there is a custom where hunters ask the Oshirasama for the direction of the mountain to go to when they hunt. According to this, there was a custom to hold the shintai of Oshirasama in both hands and spinning them, and going to the direction which the bamen (mask for horses) turned to. It has an aspect of 'Oshirasesama' (the ability to make predictions in hunting) (from Tono-monogatari-shui). Its ability to make predictions in hunting is well-known. It can also predict earthquakes, fire, and disasters, and Oshirasama is also known as Kagibotoke. On the day of Oshiraasobi held on January 16th (old lunar calendar), fortune-telling of the year is done to inquire about the divine will for the fortune, good, and evil of the year, and children spun the Oshirasama in a similar fashion, and inquired about the divine will. There is one theory that hold its origin in China in "Sojin-ki" (Selection of Jin Period Kanpo), "Shinjoden (神女伝)" (Tang Dynasty). Regarding the background for the birth of Oshirasama faith, some believe that mountain god faith, faith towards sericulture work, or horses which support the living, etc. blended, and developed as a god with various primitive nature.
There are many taboos in Oshirasama faith. For example, Oshirasama dislikes animal meat and eggs, and offering these can lead to serious illness. There are stories of curses invoked when family members ate meat. Additionally, when the way of worship is rough, the family will be cursed to death.
In Tohoku, there is a tale of tragic love with regards to the establishment of Oshirasama. According to this tale, there was a girl in a farmhouse, who was close with the horse they had and eventually became husband and wife with it. In anger, the father of the girl killed and hung the horse on a tree. The girl heard of the death of the horse, and cried holding on to it. The father became more angry, and decapitated the horse. When the girl jumped on the horse's head at once, she ascended to the sky and became Oshirasama.
For example, according to "Kikimimizoshi," in the latter half of the synopsis, there is a tale of origin of the beginning of sericulture in which the girl who flew to heaven stood at the bedside of the parents and taught them to keep the silkworms in the mortar with mulberry leaves and have them lay silken threads. Based on the tale above, the horse and the girl became the god of sericulture with two bodies, one with the head of horse and the other with the head of a girl.
In Oshira-do in the tourist facility 'Densho-en' in Tono City, Iwate Prefecture, one thousand Oshirasama are displayed.
In 'Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi' (animated film "Spirited Away"), it appears as a personified daikon radish god.