Festivals, Rites and Performances
Fuyu no matsuri
Hanabi tai kai
Hidaka hibuse matsuri
Nachi no hi-matsuri
Senko no gi
Sumida inari jinja sairei
Toshi-goi no matsuri
Tosho-gu haru notaisai
Tsiki-nami no matsuri
Ueno tenjin matsuri
Agata-yo-matsuri-a ferocious night matsuri at the uji agata jinja, in which yukata-clad (formerly naked) youths carrying a large ladder-like mikoshi to the Buddhist temple Byodo-in in a mannor which represents the vigorous spirit of its kami, kono-hana-sakuga-hime. She is also kami of Mt. Fuji and Mt. Asama and the wife of the legendary first emperor Ninigi.
Age-uma matsuri-horse riding festival, held on May 4-5th at the Tada jinja, Mie, shrine of the kami credited with the development of the region. After misogi purification six horsemen run their horses up a steep three meter "cliff".
Aki-matsuri-Autumn festivals. A broad category of matsuri over-lapping with natsu (summer) matsuri. They are held in late summer/autumn mainly to thank the kami for the rice and other harvest. In the past Aki-matsuri were often preceded by a month of taboo or abstention (imi) which coincided with the kami-na-zuki (month without kami). Examples of aki-matsuri include the mega-no-kenka matsuri (clash of deer festival) at Matsubara Hachimangu, Hyogo on October 14-15th in which three mikoshi collide with each other as they are carried through the streets. At the kamatama Hachiman aki-matsuri in Ikeda-cho, Kagawa, Mikoshi with five layers of large cushions (zabuton) are whirled around. Notable examples of autumn festivals with public processions include the Hachinone Sanja taissai (grand rite of the three shrines (ogami jinja, shinra jinja and shinmei-gu) of Hachinone, Aomori from August 1st-3rd, in which kabuki and folk tale scenes are performed on elaborate floats. The Morioka Hachimangu matsuri (September 14-16th) features yatai floats with dolls representing Japanese heroes in a parade accompanied by drummers. In the Horai matsuri at Kinkengu jinja, Shikawa in October 2nd-3rd, huge four meter high "dolls", are displayed decorated with harvest produce such as rice, chestnuts, carrots and aubergines.
Amagoi-"rain-soliciting". A ritual to pray for rain. Prayer for rain may be addressed to any kami and Inari as a kami of food is a popular choice. Certain shrines are good for rain requests, and the Shinano togakushi jinja in Nagano receives requests from all over the country asking for prayers to be offered and distributes sacred water to farmers to induce rain on their fields. Ryujin is often addressed in times of drought, as the god of thunder. There are also specific annual or occasional rituals devoted to rain-making. In Nagano at the Bessho jinja the take-no-nobori (climbing the peak) is carried out as amagori rite on July 15th. Participants climb the mountain before dawn and make banners which are then paraded round the village. In Saitama, a ritual called suneori-no-amagoi-gyoji (literally "leg-breaking rain-petitioning rite") takes place on August 8th, but only every four or five years, at the Shirohige jinja. The name of the festival is explained by the two ton, 36 meter long dragon made from straw and bamboo leaves which is carried on a bamboo frame from the shrine into the local lake. Amagoi-odori are ritual dances, in some cases elaborate and prolonged over several days, offered to the kami in petition for rain. A different means of provoking rain involves irritating the kami, either by waving burning torches lit by fire from a shrine such as the Akiba-san-hongu akiba-jinja or throwing polluting material such as cattle bones into waters usually regarded as sacred, such as lakes around Mt. Fuji. A festival of thanksgiving for the water supply is held at the Shirayama-hime jinja, Ishikawa, the mother shrine of the many Hakusan shrines, on August 15th.
Aoi-matsuri-"hollyback festival". A festival of prayer for abundant grain harvests, elements of which date back to the 7th century. It is held every May 15 in Kyoto at the two Kamo shrines, the Shimogamo (or kamo-wake-ikazuchi) jinja and the kamigamo (or kamo-mi-oya) jinja. A court messenger's procession (roto-no-gi) of ox-drawn carts (gissha), a palanquin carrying the saio (virgin princess/priestess), horses with golden saddles and around 600 participants (omiya-bito) dressed in Heian period costume all adorned with hollyback (aoi or katsura) travel three from the Kyoto palace through the main streets of Kyoto via Shimagamo jinja to tokamigamo jinja. The costumes include those of chokushi (imperial messengers). The origins of the rite are unclear but it is popularly traced to the time of the legendary emperor Kimmei (reigned 539-571), when in order to appease the two kami whose tatari (curse) had taken the form of torrential rains, men wearing the masks of wild boars rode horses with tiny bells attached up and down the shrine area.
Aun no kokyu-Aun is the mystic (Sanskrit) syllable "aum". It is repeated 50 times by 7 priests as part of the evening celebration on November 26th of the Koden-shingo-sai, a harvest matsuri conducted for the hereditary guji priest (rather than the kami), of the Izumo taisha. The rite originated in the Kumano jinja, was transferred to the Kamosu jinja (shimane) in the 6th century and to the nearby Izumo taisha in the Meiji period.
Azuma-asobi-"eastern entertainment." Songs performed at the imperial court and at shrines such as the Oharano jinja, Kyoto (on April 8th). The style is derived from music offered to the Imperial court by inhabitants of the eastern provinces, especially the Sagami and Suruga areas, as an expression of loyalty.
Bokusen-divination. A Taoist-style Bureau of Division (onmyo-ryo) formed part of the Imperial court in the Heian period. Divination to assist harvest and cultivation still forms a part of many festivals. Methods used include futomani, heating the shoulder-blade of a deer and reading the cracks; the popular o-minkuji (divination by drawing lots and numbered slips of paper), archery (o-bisha, mato-i, yabusame, o-mato-shinji) where divination is based on the angle of the arrow in the target, smearing rice-paste on a pole and seeing how it sticks, and sounding a small drum. In the Awaji-shima Izanagi-jingu, a form of divination called mi-kayu-uru uses hollow bamboos dipped by farmers in boiling rice to foretell the planting and harvest, while at the Koshio jinja, Akita, rice paste is smeared on a three meter pole and divination of the crops is based on the way it sticks. Similar but more complex forms of divination are used in the Kasuga-taisha to determine different planting times for 54 different vegetables. At the Shiga-no-umi jinja, Kyushu, a busha archery crop-divination contest is performed on the 15th day of the lunar new year.
Bon-or o-bon, urabon, bon-e, bon matsuri. Technically a Buddhist festival but never seen as distinct from or incompatible with shinto, of which it therefore forms a part. As much could be said of many customary "Buddhist" rites not mentioned in this dictionary, but bon must be included because hatsu-mode and bon are the two main calendar customs with religious significance almost universally observed in Japan. Some shinto purists argue that bon was originally "Shinto" and the Buddhist aspects are a later addition, though without evidence. The word "bon" derives from "urabon" Sanskrit ullambana/avalambana meaning "hanging down". It refers to rites performed for a dead person to prevent them from being hung upsidedown-i.e. entering a womb to be reborn in this world. In the urabon-gyo, the Buddhist sutra invoked to explain the festival in Japan, it is related that the dead mother of Mokuren, one of the Buddha's disciples, was saved from torment in the realm of hungry spirits by Mokuren making an offering to some monks. Bon represents a service for the repose of deceased relatives and is an intensification of memorial rites in general. Ideally, people traveled to their "home village" (furusato) to observe bon. The festival starts with a "welcoming fire" (mukae-bi) at the entrance of the house to call back the ancestors. Offerings are made to them, usually in the butsudan, graves are visited (haka-mairi) and special bon-odori dances are performed. Shrines are not involved in the celebrations except in the case of some venue for the yagura, a high stage around which people dance to hayashi music. Bon ends two days later with an okuribi or "sending away fire" as well as the custom of shoro nagashi, floating lanterns down river. The festival is an expression of filial piety and pacification of ancestral spirits, as well as a reason to visit one's "home" village. Bon has been observed annually in Japan since 657. Up to 1867 it was celebrated on the 13th-15th day of the 7th month, and since the Meiji restoration it has been held in different places on either 15th July or 15th August.
Bon-odori-folk dancing to hayashi music which accompanies the bon rites. Dancers circle ayagura (high stage) set up in a shrine or village square.
Bugaku-formal ceremonial music and dancing performed at shrines, popular among the nobility from the 8th century. There are 160 kinds of bugaki, 30 from Korea (the so-called "right hand" dances) and 130 from China, Tibet, Central Asia, India, and Siberia (the "left hand" dancers).
Chagu-chagu umako- the name of a horse festival in Morika, Iwate. "Chagu-chagu" refers to the sound of the bells worn round the neck of a horse, which in northern Japanese dialect is "umako". The chagu-chagu umako includes a procession of about 100 beautifully adorned horses ridden by children and young women. The route runs through rice fields from Komagata-jinja to the Morioka Hachiman jinja, about 12 miles. Offerings are made at various sozen jinja, subsidiary shrines dedicated to the guardian kami of horses, sozen-sama.
Chichibu yo matsuri-the"night festival" of chichibu, Saitama, held on 2-3rd December. It is renounced for magnificent festival floats (dashi) which are dragged through the streets and finally pulled with great effort up a steep slope to the o-tabisho, followed by the mikoshi and accompanying shinto priests. The kami of the chichibu city shrine is identified with myoken, a bodhisattva widely "Shinto-ized" after the Meiji restoration with the name hoshi or pole-star. Kabuki and a dance called hiki-odori are performed on the floats during the day. At night, with a display of fireworks overhead and liberal distribution of sake, participants celebrate with lantern-lit floats the union of the female "kami" of the city's shrine with the "male" kami of the nearby mountain who also takes up residence in the o-tabisho.
Chinka-shiki-the rite of "pacifying fire" by walking on red-hot charcoal. Straw mats forming a pathway about five meters long and one meter wide are covered with sand, and on top of them is placed a bed of glowing charcoal. Bamboos with fronds still on them are stuck around the pathway and joined with straw rope hung with shide, effectively making the site a himorogi. In some cases the moon-deity is petitioned to descend and pacify the god of fire. Participants then circumambulate the walkway, preparing themselves for the fire-walking. Salt is spread on the hot coals at each end and the lead priest and followers walk across the coals. When this part of the ceremony is completed onlookers can take part in the firewalking. The rite may be interpreted, for example in ontake-kyo and shinshu-kyo, as a rite of purification of the devotee following the "pacification" of the hot element of fire.
Chinkon-"pacifying the soul" - [mi] tama-shizume. A chinkon-sai (matsuri for the pacification or repose of souls) is held in the imperial palace before the daijosai and the rite is practiced especially at the Iso-no-kami jingu, Tenri, Nara. The idea of chinkon derives from the belief that a soil which has departed from the body at death could be brought back by rituals including dancing, in forms resembling early kagura. There are several different interpretations of chinkon or tama-shizume including drawing on the strength of a gai-rai-kon, a (higher) soul from beyond, pacifications of one's own soul and of others, including the whole community, a kind of intercession for the souls of the dead, unification of dead souls with the kami, and promotion of the "soul" of the state and the sovereign.
Chinza-sai-"pacifying-seat ceremony". A ceremony to enshrine, or re-enshrine after some interruption, the kami. Like senza-sai these rites are solemn, surrounded by taboos (imi) and performed in an atmosphere of mystery and awe, often in darkness.
Daijosai-"great new flood festival." A ritual undertaken by the new emperor at the beginning of his reign. It takes place within a temporary sacred compound at the imperial palace called the daijogu and follows the ceremony of accession (senso) and enthronement (sokui rei). The daijosai takes place at the first occurance of the Niiamesai (new rice) ritual after the enthronement. First fruits are offered by the new emperor to his imperial ancestors, including Amaterasu. A meal including boiled and steamed rice and sake is shared with the kami. The rice and wine derive from different fields (regions) entitled yuki and suki. The ritual is held in the building called the yukiden before midnight and again in the sukiden before dawn. One interpretation holds that the ritual honors the kami and that the emperor ingests strength and protection through the food. Another view is that the ceremony, which involves objects such as a cloak and couch, is a rite of passage, a kind of incubation of the new emperor, during which he is infused with the soul of Amaterasu.
Dengaku-a form of ceremonial music and dance originating in rice-planting songs and later incorporated into shrine festivals in Kyoto in the mid-Heian period. It involves "rice-maiden" (sa-otome) dances to flutes, drums and sasara (a percussion instrument of two blocks of wood). It is performed (asbinzasara) at the sanja matsuri of the Asakuna jinja in Tokyo on May 17th and at the Kumano Nachi Taisha, Wakayama on July 14th.
Dorokake matsuri-mud-throwing festivals. A variant of hadaka matsuri, winter rites for purification and good harvest in which participants strip down and wrestle, covering each other in mud, wet ashes or charcoal. At the Dairokuten-no-hadaka matsuri at the musubi jinja, Chiba on February 25th, fundoshi-clad youths make their way from the shrine to a nearby lake and return covered in mud, while at the doronko matsuri of the katori jinja on April 3rd, also in Chiba, youths married during the year cover themselves with mud and carry mikoshi.
Eho-mairi-lucky-direction visit. A practice derived from ancient onmyodo beliefs and practices relating to auspicious and inauspicious directions which continue to be influential in Japan. It has contributed to the widespread practice of hatsumude at new year.
Entenraku-or ettenraku. A type of bugaku music and sometimes dancing used at festivals, originally from China. Enten means "mellifluous."
Fuji-no-yamabiraki-"opening Mt. Fuji." A festival of the Komitake jinja, Yamanashi, held on July 1st at the beginning of the Fuji-climbing season to pray for the safety of the two million or so people who will visit or climb Mt. Fuji that year.
Funadama matsuri-"boat festival" held on August 15 at the Hodosan jinja, Saitama. It dates from the Tokugawa period when travellers by raft from Chichibu to Edo prayed for safe passage on the Arakawa river.
Funa-kurabe-also funakake. Boat races contests, originally to divine the harvest, held among villages. They are common in western Japan. There are notable examples at Iki, Tsushima and Sakura jinja and at other places where belief in the water kami (surijin) is strong. At Nagasaki the funa-kurabe is part of the peiron festival (the peiron is a special kind of boat).
Fuyu no matsuri-"winter festivals." No real distinction can be made between new year (shogatsu) and "winter" (fuyu) festivals. Their themes include the welcoming of the sun (i.e. of spring), travel in a lucky direction for the coming year, typically hatsu-mode, prayers for and divination of a good harvest, expulsion of evil and securing of good influences. Not all winter festivals take place at shrines and the types that do often occur also at Buddhist temples. Shrine-based examples include the stabbing of an awa (a two meter wide white circle representing a "false sun") at the Yashiro-jinja, Mie on January 1st, and the kitcho-to-bannai-san parade at the Izumo taisha, Shimane on January 3, where marchers called bannai-san carry a large banner called kitcho (lucky omen). The ae-no-koto festival is held in villagers' homes in Ishikawa prefecture on December 5th. Farmers invite (ae) the ta-no-kami into the house for a family celebration (koto) in the hope of a good harvest.
Gagaku-"refined music." Ceremonial music (kangen) or music and dancing (bugaku) incorporating Chinese and Indian elements are preserved in the music department (gakubu) of the Board of Ceremonies of the Imperial household and at certain shrines and Buddhist temples. Instruments include the three reeds (fue, sho and hichiriki), the wagon or Tamato-koto, a kind of koto, and the “three drums” (taiko, kakko and shoko). Gagaku dancers wear costumes and maks.
Gan-gake-prayer for help addressed to a supernatural being. It may be accompanied by a promise in return to abstain from certain types of food, etc.
Gion matsuri-the Gion matsuri or Gion-e was originally a Buddhist goryo-e held to dispel pestilence. It is said to have been first performed on the orders of emperor Seiwa in 869 but started as an annual festival of the capital a century later during the Enyu era, 969-984. It was discontinued in the 14th century but revived in the 9th year of Meio, 1500. After the Meiji restoration the festival was conducted as a wholly shinto affair, though it still incorporated Buddhist themes. It was briefly discontinued during the postwar occupation (1946-51). The main festival performed throughout July at the Yasaka jinja (Kyoto) is probably the largest in Japan and includes shrine rites on 10 and 15th July and on July 16/17 and 24th mixed processions of "yama" and "hoko" floats, the "yamaboko-junko". On the evening of the 17th there is a shinko-sai in which the mikoshi of the Gion kami are taken from the Yasaka shrine to an o-tabisho. "Yama" (mountains) are floats topped with pine or cedar trees and borne on poles by teams of 50 men. They are regarded as himorogi and most carry "dolls" (formerly actors) representing scenes from NO Plays and legendary events including shinto, Buddhist and shugendo themes. The gigantic and exotically decorated hoko are or mental tower floats, wheeled vehicles weighing several tons and up to 24 meters high, each topped with a sakaki tree ans also regarded as himorogi. The hoko carry art treasures or represent yoki-yoku, traditional sung stories, many of which are classic Chinese legends. Many residents participate by opening their houses and displaying precious art objects including screens (byobu). Gion matsuri are also performed in Hakata at the Kushida jinja where floats called yamagasa weighing a ton are carried by teams of 28 in an exciting 5 km race starting at 4:59 am on July 15. Other notable Gion matsuri with variations are the kokura gion daiko featuring taiko (drum) performances (July 10-12th), Narita gion-e close to Narita airport in Chiba with 10 impressive floats and numerous mikoshi (July 7-9th), Tajima gion matsuri, Fukushima which offers kabui performances (July 19-21st), Tobata gion Yamagasa, Fukuoka whose floats carry flags during the day and turn into mountains of light produced by chochin (lanterns) at night (July 13-15th) and yamaguchi gion matsuri, Yamaguchi where the performers of a dance called sagi-mai are dressed as sagi snowy herons (July 20-27th).
Gohan matsuri-"forced rice festival". A type of festival enjoyed throughout Japan at Buddhist temples and shinto shrines in which a participant victim is ceremonially and often comically "forced" to eat heaps of rice (gohan), large quantities of noodles (udon), potatoes, etc., and drink sake from huge bowls. The festival seems to be a pantomime of the consequences of a good harvest. At the kokodomo gohan-shiki at ubuoke jinja, Nikko, Tochigi on November 25th children dressed as Yamabushi force adults to eat. The hakkoji-no-goriki ("luminous path forcing") of the Myoken jinja, Awano-machi, Tochigi is held at new year on January 3rd. Gohan is also read kowameshi and means rice cooked with red beans.
Goryo-e-rituals for the pacification of goryo. These developed in Kyoto from the 9th century and became widely popular. The gion matsuri and other festivals originated as goryo-e.
Goshi-literally "enshrined together". The ceremony of apotheosis (enshrinement as kami) of a group of souls, performed since the Meiji era for more than two million war dead at the yasukuni jinja and in regional nation-protecting shrines (gokoku jinja) or shrines for the spirits of the war-dead (shokonsha). Since the constitutional separation of religion and state after 1945 around 500 members of the self-defense forces (jietai, i.e. the Japanese armed forces) have been enshrined in goshi ceremonies by the quasi-governmental Veterans' Association, regardless of earlier funeral arrangements and not always with the consent of close relatives. There is continuing legal controversy over whether the ceremony is religious and whether state patronage of the ceremony is constitutional. The best known case concerns a member of the jietai who had died in a traffic accident and whose remains were in the care of the Christian church to which his widow belonged. She sued the jietai, which provides the Veterans' Association with its headquarters and other forms of state support, for violating her right to freedom of religion by carrying out the goshi of her husband against her beliefs. She won in the lower courts but in 1988 the supreme court held up an appeal by the state ruling that it was the Veterans' Association alone which had performed the goshi. Though goshi was indeed religious, the state in the form of the jietai had not been involved in any religious action by assisting the Veterans' Association, nor done any harm to any religion. In a minority report it was held that the jietai had in fact patronized shinto but had not violated anyone's individual rights. The supreme court also ruled that even if the state carried out unconstitutional religious actions itself it would not be violating religious rights unless it forced individuals to carry out religious actions against their will. Finally the claim that the widow's "religious human rights" and peace of mind were violated because her own way of memorializing her husband was usurped by the goshi was dismissed. On this point the court ruled that a person's religious freedom cannot be allowed to limit the religious freedom of another party. In other words, the court upheld the right of the Veterans' Association to carry out the enshrinement because it was a religious action, and therefore the widow should not be allowed to prevent it. Underlying this controversy is the question of who "owns" the spirit of a deceased Japanese individual, the private family or a group such as the armed forces which may be an organ of the state? Such fundamental issues of individual rights versus civic duties in relation to religion are central to the yasukuni jinja question.
Goyosai-"official festival". The festival performed for the shogun, it refers to the sanno matsuri of the Tokyo Hie jinja.
Gyoretsu-a procession or parade at a shinto festival, made up of various elements (often in pairs) such as priests, warriors or guardians deity figures (zuijin), torches (taimatsu), lanterns (chochin), floats (yatai), one or more mikoshi, children or "virgins" (chigo, otome) and other features particular to the festival.
Hadaka-matsuri-"naked festivals." A general term for popular festivals, mostly held at new year in the coldest season, which these days feature near naked young men usually dressed only in a fundoshi or mawashi (loincloth). Hadaka matsuri are often an opportunity for youths to show off their strength and manliness by jostling, climbing or fighting over a trophy of some kind such as a wooden or straw ball, being sprayed with water or immersing themselves in a river. Similar hadaka matsuri are held at both Buddhist temples and shinto shrines. A celebrated hadaka-matsuri is held for example at Enzo-ji Buddhist temple, Fukushima on January 7th. When the temple bell sounds at 8 pm semi-naked youths and men swarm up a rope to the roof to attract good fortune for the coming year. At the oni-jinja, Aomori, youths wearing mawashi make offerings of Shimenawa at the shrine on new year's day. At the Kompira jinja, Akita, participants dressed only in a koshi-mino, grass under skirt, immerse themselves in the river for purification before offering candles and other gifts to the shrine, while at the Chokoku-ji temple in Nagano the procession includes Mikoshi modeled in the form of sacred horses, bales of rice or sake barrels, and the participants jump into the river.
Hairei-the form of individual worship used at shinto shrines. It varies in degree of elaborateness and formality, but typically comprises approaching the kami, making a small offering (saimotsu) by throwing a few coins into the offertory box (saisen-bako), bowing one or two times, clapping the hands (kashiwade) twice or more, and bowing again.
Hakata dontaku-the "dontaku" matsuri at Hakata (fukuoka, northern Kyushu). Dontaku is a corruption of the Dutch Zontag or Sunday, explained by the fact that Hakata is not far from Nagasaki where the Dutch maintained a trading station throughout the Edo period when Japan was otherwise a "closed country" (sakoku) for Europeans. The parade is not connected with a shrine and originated as a new year's procession of merchants visiting the local feudal lord, with festival elements shared by many shogatsu traditions. It includes a parade called Matsubayashi (Pine-forest) of children and adults in traditional costumes led by three riders on horseback impersonating three of the well-known shichi-fuku-in (Fukurokyju), Ebisu and Daikoku.
Hakushu-hand-clapping, part of revering the kami (hairei). In a shinto context it is called kashiwade.
Hama-ori-"going down the beach". A type of festival in which mikoshi are carried over or into the sea, either by boat (in festivals called kaijo-togyo) or carried by bearers who go into the sea (kaichu-togyo).
Hanabi taikai-grand firework gatherings. Hanabi "flower-fire" refers particularly to exploding types of fireworks such as warimono, exploding rockets. The techniques were introduced to Japan at the end of the 16th century along with European fire arms and the first fireworks display was probably that held by Tokugawa, Ieyasu in 1613. The annual summer display on the Sumidagawa (Sumida river) in Tokyo dates from 1733.
Haru-matsuri-spring festivals. A collective term for matsuri held in the spring (from January to May) and which includes some new years festivals. They are held to pray for a good harvest and may include ceremonial rice-planting. Several now feature parades of festival floats (yatai) with performers of Kabuku, etc., by children or puppets. Examples are the dekayama ("huge mountain") floats of otoko-nushi jinja, Ishiteawa which weigh 20 tons and display scenes from Kabuki played by mechanical dolls in a festival held from May 13-15th, and the kodomo-kabuki nikiyama-matsuri ("children's kabuki pulled-mountain float festival") of the Demachi-shin-myosha jinja, Toyama which takes place on April 16-17th. Other festivals feature interesting or unusual mikoshi. At the saka-orishi ("down the slope") matsuri of the Ohama, Boko, Kinumine jinja, Shiga prefecture on the first Sunday in May, the mikoshi is lowered down a steep hill with straw ropes. At the Ichinomiya Kenka matsuri (Kenka means fracas, ruction, brawl) at the matsu jinja, Niigata on April 10th, two mikoshi teams struggle to have their mikoshi consecrated first at the shrine. At the sagicho matsuri of Himure Hachiman jinja, in Shiga in April or March, young men dressed as women carry mikoshi-style floats decorated with the Chinese zodiacal animals while at night huge torches are lit to purify the grounds.
Hatsu-miya-mairi-the "first shrine visit" of a newborn who is brought to the shrine traditionally the grandmother or another female relative since the mother is impure from childbirth, but in modern times often by the other. The child thereby becomes a parishioner of the shrine and of its tutelary kami, and may receive its name from the shrine. Hatsu-miya-mairi is supposed to take place on the 32nd day after birth for a boy, and on the 33rd day for a girl.
Hatsumode-the "first visit" (also hatsu-mairi) to a shinto shrine or Buddhist temple at new year, typically January 1-3. It derives from the medieval onmyo-do (yin-yang) custom of eh mairi, visiting a shrine located in an auspicious direction. Hatsumode has grown in popularity in the postwar period and is currently undertaken by up to 80 % of Japanese people. The trend is to visit the largest and most famous shinto shrines or Buddhist temples. Some people travel through the night in order to be at the shrine as new year begins or perhaps to view the sunrise from a mountain-top shrine. As well as enjoying the trip with friends and family, trying out seasonal foods and buying souvenirs, visitors may participate in norito rituals and receive sakakai branches and consecrated sake (mi-ki). They also return old amulets (o-fuda, o-mamori, hamaya) for ritual burning, and buy new ones for the coming year, purchase o-mikuji divination slips and inscribe ema.
Hayashi-a form of traditional folk music. The three main instruments are fue (flute), taiko (drum), and shamisen (three-stringed lute). Local hayashi tunes played at festivals are known as matsuri-bayashi.
Hibuse matsuri-a festival to ward off fires, held at the Osaki jinja, Miyagi on April 29th. It features a dance called hibuse-no-tora-mai or "dance of the fire-preventing tiger" which resembles a shishi-mai.
Hidaka hibuse matsuri-the warding-off-fire festival of Hidaka, Iwate prefecture, based at the Hidaka jinja. Floats called nayashi-yatai (festival music floats) carry tiered rows or young girls who beat small drums, while others have flute and drum bands.
Hikiyama matsuri-Hikiyama festival, held at the Nagahama-hachimangu jinja, Shiga, April 13-16th. A nikiyama or "pulled mountain" is a large and ornate festival float with a theater stage on which local children aged 5-12 perform in adult style kyogen (NO comic interludes) and kabuki.
Himachi-waiting for the sun. A popular religious custom in which a group of devotees meets at a member's home on certain days such as the 15th of the first, fifth and ninth months of the lunar calendar, remain awake all night and complete their devotions at sunrise. Since the Meiji period shinto priests have usually been involved in himachi.
Hi-matsuri-fire festival. A collective term for festivals which involve fire, destroyer of evil and symbol of the descent of divine power. They are held for example to pray for the return of the sun after winter and to dispel evil influences, and are conducted at both Buddhist temples and shinto shrines. Fire festivals at new year involve the burning of the seasonal decorations and divination for the coming year. An example of a shrine-based shogatsu no hi-matsuri (new year fire festival) is the oni-yo (demon night) festival at the Tamasu-jinja, Fukuoka. Huge pine torches one and a half meters across called taimatsu are set alight and hoisted up, supported on oak poles. The ritual "closing" of Mt. Fuji at the end of the climbing season is marked by the lighting of several huge taimatsu during the yo shida no hi-matsuri at the Fuji-sengen jinja, Yamanashi, August 26-27th.
Hina-matsuri-"dolls festival". The other name, derived from the seasonal day is momo-no-sekku. In modern times Girl's Day. Models of dolls in Heian court costume with tiny accessories such as palanquins and tableware are displayed and offerings of sake, peach-blossom and rice-cakes are placed before the display. Hishi-mochi (lozenge shaped rice cakes), shiro-zake (white sake, made from sake and rice malt) and other special miniature sweets made for this ceremony echo an earlier custom of going out for a picnic. The older form of the festival still practiced in some areas involves making paper or clay dolls and floating them down river on straw floats to carry away the threat of illness to daughters of the household. Thus at the Awashima jinja, Wakayama on hina-matsuri, several thousand dolls offered to the shrine during the year are floated out to sea in boats.
Hobei-the presentation of offerings to the kami. Ordinarily it means the offering of symbolic heihaku by worshippers but hobei may comprise of other items such as jewels, silk, special paper, weapons, money and utensils. Hobei can be a means of affirming the rank of a shrine, depending on who is making the offerings.
Honkawa Kagura-a kagura performance of the Japanese sword dance. It is performed during November/December at the Honkawan ai-jinja, Honkawa-mura, Kochi. A sword dance is also performed on March 12 of the lunar calendar at the Oasahiko-jinja, Itano-gun, Tokushima.
Hyakudo mairi-hyakudo or o-hyakudo means "a hundred times" and can refer either to a hundred visits (i.e. many visits) to a shrine or to the practice found in some shrines, of circumambulating or walking backwards and forwards between two stone markers set in the grounds. This is done either a hundred times, or alternatively a number of times derived from the number of years of one's age, e.g. eleven times (six times plus five) for a 65 year old. It may be performed for a variety of reasons, as penance, to heal an ailment, to demonstrate sincerity when seeking help from the kami or as mild asceticism.
Ichi-fair or market, many of which are held at shrines or Buddhist temples. Examples in Tokyo include the Ninomiya-no-shoga ichi (ginger fair) at the Ninomiya jinja, Akikawa-shi on September 9th, the Bettara (radish pickle) fair at the Takarada Ebisu-jinja, Chuo-ku, October 19-20th, the Tori-no-ichi (lucky "rake fair") held on tori-no-hi (rooster day, 10th day of the Chinese calendar) in November at the Otori jinja, Tokyo.
Inokagura-a richly costumed and masked kagura performed at the Hachimangu, Misumi-Cho, Shimane on September 15th.
Inukko matsuri-inukko are models of dogs fashioned from rice flour. On February 15-16th in Akita prefecture (northern Japan) inukko are made and presented as offerings in temporary snow-shrines. The shrines are dedicated to the kami of dogs, who protect us against robbery and other misfortunes.
Inuyama matsuri-held at the Harizuna jinja, Inuyama on the first or second Sunday in April, this is the only festival in Aichi prefecture to feature a parade of floats. They date from the Edo period, are three-storied like those of the Takayama matsuri procession and are lit at night by more than 300 chochin lanterns. One type has a hayashi band in the lowest section, puppeteers concealed in the middle section and puppets at the top, another is built like a boat.
Iresai-the ceremony held at shrines to remember and pacify the spirits (tama, rei) of the war dead, carried out pre-eminently at the Yasukuni jinja and regional and local gokoku jinja and shokonsha built since the Meiji period for that purpose.
Ishi-age-the practice of "putting a stone" or pebble somewhere in a shrine as a customary act of devotion when visiting or on pilgrimage. Pebbles received at shrines or temples have prayers inscribed on them and are taken home. When the prayer or wish is fulfilled the pebble is returned to the shrine.
Iwashimizu-matsuri-or minami (southern) matsuri. A festival celebrated annually on September 15 at the Iwashimizu Hachiman-gu (Kyoto). Since 974, apart from a break of 200 years before its revival in 1679, it has incorporated a hojo-e, the Buddhist practice of ceremonially freeing captive birds and fish as an act of merit. A kagura dance by miko is intended to comfort the soul's of fish who have died during the year. The hojo-e rite was first performed here in 863 on the instructions of the emperor, having originally been introduced to Japan in 720 at the Usa Hachimangu, Kyushu, of which the Iwashimizu is a branch shrine.
Iwato-biraki-opening up of the cave entrance. When according to the Kojiki and Nihongi, Amaterasu hid herself in a cave and sealed the entrance door (iwa-to) withdrawing light from the world, a stratagem was employed by the heavenly kami to entice her out again. This included a sexy dance which caused great merriment among the assembly and which is said to be the origin of kagura. The sounds of enjoyment in what should have been a dark and piteous would caused Amaterasu to become curious about events outside the cave and she opened the door a little and peeped out further (in the Kogoshui version, to a new palace constructed for her). The heavenly kami Ame-no-tajikara-o encircled Amaterasu with a rope (the mythical prototype of the shimenawa) so that she would not re-enter the cave. As a result of iwato-biraki the divine light which refreshes and revives everything was restored to the world.
Jichinsai-the "ground purification ceremony" held for virtually every new private or public building in Japan. It used to have both Buddhist and shinto-type forms but is nowadays normally conducted by a shinto priest for the owners and the construction firm. Once leveled, the site is marked out as a temporary shrine (himoragi) with Shimenawa, sakaki branches, etc., and then purified in a ritual which appeases the kami of the land and local spirits, calls on their protection for the future occupants and cleanses the site of any undesirable influences. Also called ji-matsuri and toko-shizame-no-matsuri, it is probably derived from Taoism. While few Japanese would see participation in jichinsai as involving religious commitment of any kind and the ceremony does not involve named or enshrined kami, like goshi and the yasukuni shrine question. Jichinsai has been the focus of postwar legal and constitutional controversy when the ceremony has been carried out in relation to public building. Citizen of Tsu city in Mie prefecture took in paying shinto priests to perform a jichinsai for a new construction which publicized action reached the supreme court but was ultimately unsuccessful with possible future implications for the constitutional status of shinto as a religion.
Jidai matsuri-"festival of the ages." One of the three great festivals of Kyoto. A historical pageant held on October 22nd at the Heian Jingu in Kyoto. It started in 1896, the year after the shrine (then ranked as a Kampei taisha) was built. A procession of characters dressed in period costume represents the thousand-year history of Kyoto as the old capital of Japan, from the Heian through the Kamakura, Muromachi, Azuchi-Monoyama, Edo and Meiji periods. The parade encapsulates Japan's collective past, left behind when the capital moved to Tokyo and the country embarked on its phase of modernization. The procession of 1700 marchers (which since 1945 has included women) begins with the 19th century and works backwards to the 8th.
Jingi kanjo-"anointment by the kami (jingi)". A shingon initiation ceremony of Ryobu Shinto.
Jinja sanpai/sankei-visiting a shrine (also kami-mode, jinja sankei).
Jotosai-a carpenters' rituals carried out during the construction of a building.
Junpai-a round of pilgrimages. A term common to shinto and Buddhism, it refers to the practice of visiting a series of shrines, temples and holy sites such as caves, waterfalls, etc., in a defined circuit, usually of 33 or 88 shrines and/or temples. It may be carried out as an act of piety, in order to gain merit from the kami and buddhas, to pray, to atone for something or as an ascetic practice (shugyo). In the Tokugawa period pilgrimage provided a legitimate reason for travel and a rare opportunity for adventure, as reflected in Okage-mairi and the popularity of Ise-ko groups. In the past pilgrims walked the routes and some still do, but the majority now use some form of transport. There are examples of pilgrimage circuits developed around railway routes consortia of temples, shrines and transport companies, such as the Hankyu railway's shichifukujin route from Osaka. The best-known example of a pilgrimage circuit is the "88 stations of shikoku", famous for its associations with Kukai (kobo Daishi). It now comprises only Buddhist temples, but before credited to Kobo Daishi, for example. There are similar circuits in Kyushu and the western provinces (Saikoku) and various 33-station routes in Tokyo and Kyoto.
Junrei-a religious pilgrimage. It can mean a junpai circuit but tends to have a wider meaning of any pilgrimage including a wandering journey by ascetics.
Jusan mairi-visit at 13 (years of age). A rite similar to shichi-go-san for children of 13, which seems to have spread from the Kansai (Kyoto/Osaka) area to other parts of Japan.
Kagura-sacred music and dance, music of the kami. The term kagura is derived from kamu-kura "seat of the gods" i.e. shinza, the place or object into which the kami descends, and it suggests the invocation of gods. The mythical origin of kagura in the hilarious dance performed by the heavenly kami Ame-no-uzume which caused such merriment among the assembled kami that it successfully enticed Amaterasu out of the cave into which she had withdrawn. Kagura fall broadly into two types. Classical kagura (m-kagura) connected with the court has developed as a reverent classical dance from little resembling the boisterous performance by Ame-no-uzume. It is performed by singers to an accompaniment of wooden clappers (shakubyoshi), a special oboe (hichiriki), a flute (kagura-bue) and a six-stringed zither, the wagon. It is performed at the imperial court annually on the night of 15th December. The second form called sato-kagura ("village kagura") refers to regional forms of shrine or festival-based dance-drama which have evolved into semi-professional performances by masked players of scenes from shinto mythology and other historical or legendary themes. The accompaniment is by a hayashi band consisting of flutes and drums. At shrines, kagura may be performed by miko (shrine maidens) dressed in red hakama and white blouse. Its purpose is to entertain, pacify and invoke the benevolence of the enshrined kami. There are regional types of kagura associated with the Atsuta taisha, Izumo taisha, Kasuga taisha and other shrines including Ise jingu where kaguru was traditionally performed, as elsewhere, in return for donations. In trance kagura such as the Kojin kagura, found in Okayama, a medium dances while waving a length of white cotton in snake-like gestures, before falling into a trance and issuing a message from the god kojin. A form of kagura (mi-kagura-uta) also has a central place in Tenrikyo ritual. It is performed in a pit at the center of the central shrine in Tenri, Nata prefecture.
Kaijin matsuri-sea-kami festivals. A term used for the numerous festivals dedicated to the sea gods, umi-no-kami or kaijin. Kaijin is a collective term for a number of different kami, important to seafarers and fishermen and worshipped mainly in coastal areas around Japan, which form a large proportion of the habitable land. Until recently fishing was the occupation second only to agriculture in Japan and kaijin are very popular. They include the munakata female kami, various kami worshipped in the sumiyoshi taisha and its numerous branch shrines, and the kami of the kotohira-gu in Shikoku, i.e. kompira dai-gongen.
Kami-mode-visiting a shrine. Also jinja sanpai/sankei.
Kami-mukae-welcoming or summoning the kami. The first element in the structure of a typical festival. Specifically it means the summoning of a kami to a himorogi, that is, to a place which is not the usual "seat" of the kami. In some cases the call (keihitsu) accompanies the recitation of norito and is a sonorous long "o" sound.
Kami-okuri-the ceremony of "sending away" on completion of a matsuri to which the kami has been summoned. A high-ranking priest intones norito and keihitsu sounds.
Kanda matsuri-one of the three biggest festivals of Edo (Tokyo), celebrated from May 12-16th (or 13th-18th) at the kanda jinja where the so-chinju (overall protective deity) of the central Tokyo Nihonbashi and Kanda districts is enshrined. A major procession with 70 mikoshi takes place on May 15. Because of their size and the danger to overhead power lines, floats (yatai) no longer take part and the smaller mikoshi have multiplied in their place. The kind of floats used in pre-Meiji times can however still be seen at the kawague matsuri. During the Tokugawa period the matsuri with its magnificent floats was regarded as the festival for the townspeople of Edo and alternated every other year with the "official" sanno matsuri of the Tokyo Hie jinja held for the shogun.
Kangen-sai-"wind and string music." The name of a festival held at the Itsukushima jinja at Miyajima, Hiroshima prefecture on June 17th by the old lunar calendar. The famous torii at Itsukushima is in the sea, and mikoshi are ceremonially carried across the water and placed before it. Gagaku is performed on a stage formed by three boats joined side by side which process to the accompaniment of an orchestra consisting in three stringed, three percussion and three wind instruments.
Kanname-sai-festival of the new rice. A harvest festival now celebrated on October 15-17th at both shrines of the Ise jingu, the imperial household and at the same time in virtually every shrine in Japan. Newly-ripened grains of rice from the shinden (sacred rice fields) are offered to the kami.
Kappa tennosai-"heavenly-emperor kappa festival". A festival held in Tokyo at the Ebara jinja, Shinagawa during the weekend nearest to June 7th. The festival is held to pray for a good harvest and success in the fishing industry, and the mikoshi which form the procession are borne into the sea. The name of the festival flatters the kappa with the title of "heavenly emperor", evidently to win his favor as the deity of water.
Karatsu kunchi-autumn festival (kunchi) of the Karatsu jinja, Saga. It includes a festival procession held in late October/early November which is famous for its huge five-meter high elaborate floats more than 120 years old. The 14 floats which process in order of seniority represent. 1. A red lion (akajishi), the oldest float constructed in 1819. 2. A blue lion (aojishi), 3. The legend of Urashima Taro and the turtle, 4. A Minamoto, Yoshitsune's helmet, 5. A sea bream (tai), 6. A phoenix (ho-o-maru), 7. A flying dragon (hiryu), 8. A golden lion (kinjishi), 9. The helmet of Takeda, Shingen, 10. The helmet of Uesugi, Kenshin, 11. The robber Shutendoji and the helmet of Minamoto no Yorimitsu, 12. A dragon's head, 13. A legendary dolphin (shachi) and 14. Another lion (built in 1876).
Karuta- a game of cards (karuta="carta"). A traditional card game called karuta-tori (grabbing the cards) widely played in homes at new year is based on the early Kamakura period Hyakunin isshu "hundred poems by a hundred poets" anthology compiled by Teika, Kyo some time in the 13th century. The poems have to be matched to their composers. It is ritually re-enacted in Heian costume at a ceremony called Karuta-hajime (first card-game) at the yasaka (Gion) jinja in Kyoto on January 3rd.
Kashiwade-to clap one's hands (before a kami). The common form of shinto worship (hairei) involves bowing and hand-clapping. It often means two claps, but varies according to the custom of a shrine.
Kasuga matsuri-(also kasuga taisai, grand rite of kasuga), the annual spring festival of the kasuga taisha in Nara, celebrated since the 8th century and currently held on March 13. In early times the rite included the arrival of a "sacral woman" (saijo) from Kyoto, while the offerings were made on behalf of the priests by a young girl of "abstention and purity" (mono-imi). Although these women no longer feature in the ritual it is otherwise performed in accordance with accounts dating from the 9th century. As part of the ritual, horses are led (hiki-uma) around the shrine and there is a performance of Yamato-mai dance. The shinsen (food offerings) include beautiful arrangements of rice, sake, mochi, fish, chicken and fruit. The matsuri is entitled to receive a visit from an imperial messenger (chokushi).
Kawagoe matsuri-a festival held in its full form every other year at the Hikagawa jinja, Saitama. It features huge, richly decorated floats which clash at night in the center of town in an exciting ceremonial contest called hikkawase ("pulling against each other"). As the floats collide noisy bayashi bands compete to make the bearers of the rival float to lose their rhythm. The floats are said to be replicas of those used at the kanda matsuri before tall floats were banned from Tokyo in the late Meiji period.
Kazami-no-kagura-a kagura performance of the emergence of Amaterasu from the cave (iwato-biraki). It is performed at Togo-jinja, Shioya-cho, Tochigi on April 3.
Keiba-horse races held as part of a religious ceremony. Examples are the horse racing at the Kamo-wake-ikazuchi-jinja in Kyoto on May 5th and the medieval-style katchu-keiba of the soma nomaoi festival in Fukushima (July 23) which originated as a form of training for the samurai.
Ke-mari-"kick ball". A kind of football game popular among the Heian aristocracy in which a deer skin ball has to be kept off the ground among the players. It is ritually performed on January 4th at the Shimoga mo jinja, Kyoto as part of the new year ceremonies.
Kibuku-(also reversed: bukki). Mourning. The term buku (mourning clothes) carries the same meaning. Mourning here means the period of ritual impurity following contact with death, rather than a feeling of sadness or loss. It is one of the main sources of Kegare and is correspondingly surrounded by taboos (imi) on travel and participation in shinto ritual. Historically most practical matters concerning death, burial and memorialisation were dealt with by Buddhism. Shinto since the Meiji period has not shown any propensity to take over this aspect of Buddhism, apart from the enshrinement of souls of the war dead. A shinto version of the funeral service (sosai) is available, but it takes place away from the shrines, so death is directly relevant to shinto ritual mainly because of the pollution of mourning.
Kigan-a prayer or supplication. It refers to personal prayers (not necessarily for personal benefit-they may be for the community, nation, etc.) rather than to ritual forms such as norito. Prayers or petitions or wish is written under the heading of o-negai (wish or request).
Kinen-expressions of gratitude for mi-megumi or mitama-no-fuyu, blessings from the kami.
Kito-prayers, a type of kigan requested by a shrine devotee and offered by a priest on his or her behalf.
Kodomo-no-hi-"children's day" or Boy's Day. A boy's counterpart to the girl's hina-matsuri. It takes place every year on the third gosekku, the 5th day of the 5th month (May) and features displays of model samurai amour and helmets as well as gogatsu ningyo. "Many dolls", all symbolizing courage and loyalty. Two characters often represented by dolls are the ferocious shoki-san, a Chinese hero shown crushing a devil underfoot and Kintaro, a devoted son who leads a bear and carries a hatchet over his shoulder. Cloth streamers in the shape of carp (magoi, black carp for the father, higoi, red carp for the mother) representing bravery and longevity are flown above the house on poles.
Kokumin girei-the "people's rite." A simple ritual initially comprising a moment's silence with head bowed in honor of the war dead. It was classified along with shrine visits as non-religious and therefore a civic duty. It had developed by 1945 into a practice of turning towards the imperial palace, singing the national anthem and reading an imperial rescript which was a compulsory element of every Buddhist, Christian, etc., service of worship.
Koreisai-commemoration rite for imperial ancestors, traditionally performed by the Yoshida and Shirakawa and after the Restoration also (except in the palace itself) by the Department of Divinity (jingikan) and its successions.
Koshitsu saishi-religious ceremonies (saishi) of the imperial household in which the emperor or an imperial substitute has a priestly function. These include around 30 annual festivals, some of them confidential to the imperial palace, held in the Kyuchu sanden or "three shrines within the palace." The rites include on January 3rd the genshisai (celebrating the legendary inception of the imperial line by Nihigi) and on February 11th the kigensetsu, celebrating the beginning of the nation with the accession of emperor Jimmu. The shunki (spring) shindensai and shunki koreisai held on 21st March are repeated on September 23rd at the shuki (autumn) koreisai and shuki shindensai. The kanna mesai (festival of the new rice) and Niinamesai (harvest festival) take place on October 17th and November 23rd respectively. On various dates there are daisai and reisai, private ceremonies on the anniversary of the death of the previous emperor and for the spirits of the preceding three emperors respectively. The year ends with ano-harae ceremony on December 31st. A preparatory chinkon-sai, part of which re-enacts the iwato-biraki episode, is held to "pacify the soul" of the new emperor. It precedes the main daijosai (rite of imperial accession) which occurs at the first niiamesai of an emperor's reign. It occurred in 1925 for the Showa emperor (Hirohito) and in 1990 for emperor Akihito. Imperial marriage ceremonies and funeral rituals may also be classed as koshitsu. The significance of these rites for the state and the people has of course varied according to the political context and the historical significance of the emperor. After the Meiji restoration the koshitsu saishi became pre-eminent and the reformed ritual calendar of the imperial household was replicated in shrines throughout Japan, a pattern which has continued with some minor modifications since 1945. Since the separation of religion and state in the 1947 constitution the rites of the imperial household have not of course been celebrated as official state ceremonies. For a proportion of Japanese the major imperial rites carry substantial personal and religious significance from an orthodox shrine shinto (i.e. Jinja Honcho) point of view they are not just symbolic rites but spiritually necessary for the nation.
Kugatachi-or kugatachi-shiki. Hot-water ordeal. An ascetic practice of heat-pacification used in some shinto sects which consists in the priest dipping bamboo fronds into boiling water and sprinkling it repeatedly over the practitioner.
Kurama-no-hi-matsuri-one of the major fire-festivals (hi-matsuri) in Japan. It is celebrated on October 22nd at the Yuki jinja, Kyoto and derives from the custom of mukae-bi, fire to light the path of spirits coming from the other world. The climax of the festival is a gathering of mikoshi and great burning torches (taimatsu) of dry grass.
Kyogen-comic interludes in Noh theater performances, sometimes performed at shrines.
Kyokusui-no-en-"meandering stream party." A re-enactment of Kyoku-sai (meandering stream), a game played by the nobility in which participation had to compose a five line tanka poem in time to drink sake from a lacquer cup floating towards them downstream. The ceremony is performed at the Jonangu shrine, Kyoto, on April 29th, and at Tenmangu shrine, Fukuosa, on the first Sunday in March.
Mai-kaa-"my car". A term used to describe proud owners of cars, thousands of whom attend shrines and temples at new year to have their cars purified. A shrine specializing in this practice may generate most of its annual income from car purification rites, prayers, amulets, and bumper stickers.
Mato-I-target shooting, archery used as a method of divination (bokusen) at new year. Now conducted at shrines, the practice was formerly carried out by archers from the community. The word "oni" may be inscribed on the target. Mato-I is used throughout Japan but in Chiba and Ibaraki prefectures the term used for the same practice is o-bisha. Other archery customs are yabusame and o-mato-shinji.
Mi-kuruma-yama matsuri-kuruma-yama ("wheeled mountains") are single-story festival floats, some carrying mechanical puppets, topped with hokodome, a latticed umbrella-shaped decoration representing the sun and its rays. The Mikuruma-yama festival takes place on May 1st at the Kanno jinja in Toyama prefecture. The floats are notable for their large black-lacquered wheels embellished with intricate metal work.
Misogi-purification or purifcation ceremony. It can have the same range of meanings as Harai/Harae but refers especially to the use of salt water (or fresh water, cold or warm, or just salt) to remove tsumi or kegare, sins and pollution. At the simplest level misogi is practiced by shrine visitors who rinse their hands and mouth (temizu) on entering the shrine, or in the ceremony of shubatsu where purifying water (or salt) is sprinkled on priests or participants in a rite or on the ground for a matsuri. Most customary purifying practices involving salt or water including the long-established Japanese habit of regular bathing and the salt-sprinkling in the sumo dohyo (arena) are related to misogi. In some cases, priests may drench or immerse themselves in water before a ceremony. Such vigorous forms of misogi (shubatsu or kessai) are related to the Buddhist practices of mizugori or suigyo, cold water austerities which involve pouring buckets of freezing water over one's body or standing under a powerful waterfall, often in the dead of winter, in order to attain spiritual strength or shamanistic abilities. The use of natural or artificial waterfalls for suigyo is widespread among all kinds of religious fraternities in Japan. The mythological origin of misogi is said to be the purification of Izanagi no mikoto who according to the Nihongi and Kojiki cleansed himself in the sea after his horrifying and polluting visits to yami. From his garments and bathing were created numerous kami of purification, the misogi-harai-no-kami.
Misog-harai-"purification, or the process of purification", spiritual discipline. It is an equivalent of shugyo, the Buddhist term for spiritual ascesis or training. The term has different interpretations in different-shinto lineages and may refer to one or more of bodily, mental, behavioral and spiritual purification. The exercises used to achieve these forms of harai (purity) depend on an interpretation of shinto as a path of individual spiritual cultivation similar to that of Buddhism and Neo-Confucianism, and therefore combine influences from a variety of Sino-Japanese religious and spiritual sources.
Mi-tave-ta-ue. Rice (trans) planting ceremony.
Mizugori-purification by water, lustration.
Mono-imi-a type of spiritual exercise, tama-furi, also o-e, "paralysis, withering."
Muneage-"raising the ridgepole" (of a roof, which completes the framework of a new house). The term equally refers to the accompanying ritual, performed by the carpenters and the owners of the house. Small monetary gifts may be given to the carpenters on this occasion. A gohei inscribed with the owner's name and the date, with an o-fuda from an appropriate shrine attached to the bottom and an o-tafuku at the top, is placed behind the rafters for protection. Offerings and symbols of purification including items such as fruit, rice and salt are made, and those present clap their hands twice and bow in the manner of devotees at a shrine. Sand from the precincts of a shrine is scattered on the ground and sake poured in the unlucky north-east (kimon, demon-gate) corner of the house. The ceremony is also known as jotosai. It is performed in addition to the jichinsai or ground-construction which is more likely to involve a shinto priest.
Mushi-kuyo-or mushi-okuri. Insect rites, insect-repelling. Agricultural rites for driving away insects from the ripening harvest.
Myoga kagura-a form of sato-kagura involving a straw doll which utters divine revelations. It is performed on April 3 at the Ikushi-jinja, Setoda-cho, Hiroshima.
Nachi no hi-matsuri-the fire festival (hi-matsuri) celebreated on 14th July at the Kumano Nachi taisha. The waterfall of Nachi which is the highest in Japan has been the venue since ancient times for ascetic practices of a mainly Buddhist or shugendo character. Numerous Buddhist temples around the shrine were destroyed in the shinbutsu-bunri attacks following the Meiji restoration, but the site is traditionally identified with Kannon bosatsu. The shrine now houses 12 gongen each of whom is carried in a mikoshi to the waterfall during the festival. The deities are welcomed by 12 large fiery torches from the associated hiryu ("flying waterfall") jinja.
Nagasaki kunchi-autumn festival (also known as o-kunchi or o-suwa matsuri) of the Suwa jinja, Nagasaki which involves also the mikoshi of other major Nagasaki shrines. It is held from October 7-9th. Kunchi is a local dialect meaning autumn festival. The rites include a rapid procession of three mikoshi which are carried by teams of about 50 men down a flight of 73 steps from the Suwa jinja to the torii below then paraded around the town, occasionally being thrown up and caught. There are dances of various kinds including "branda manzai" ("Dutch comics"), geisha performances and an unusual ja-odori or Chinese snake dance resembling a shishi-mai, in which a dragon-headed snake chasing a tama is manipulated on poles by six men. Nagasaki was a center of foreign trade and before the Meiji restoration. Dutch and Chinese elements play a more prominent role in the festival, which dates from the 17th century.
Naorai-during (normally towards the end of) a shinto matsuri, the feast of rice wine and food which has been offered to the kami (shinsen) and now distributed to the spiritual benefit of worshippers and priests. The naorai may also consist of ordinary food brought for the occasion.
Natsu-matsuri-"summer festivals." A collective term for the numerous mainly small-scale village festivals held in the summer, ostensibly to guard crops against pests and adverse conditions. There are some major natsu-matsuri held at Kyoto shrines, notably at the Yasaka-jina (the Gion matsuri) on 17-24th July, the Kitano Tenmangu on 4th August and the Iwashimizu Hachimangu on 15th September. At the Kumano-nachi taisha, Wakayama, teams carrying mikoshi down from the summit of the mountain and teams carrying a taimatsu torches up join in a tussle when they meet. At the Itsukushima-jinja, Miyajima, Hiroshima on the nearest Sunday to July 18th by the old lunar calendar, a kind of look-out tower of poles is erected in the sea and a hoju, a symbol of the soul (tama) or jewel derived from Taoism, distantly connected with protection against fire, is hung from it. Youths compete and cooperate with each other to raise one person high enough to reach the hoju and achieve good luck, in the festival known as tama-tori-sai "tama-grabbing." The Nebuta or Neputa "drowsiness" festival though not formally connected with shinto or Buddhism is also widely celebreated in early August in northern Japan with huge images of kabuki actors and other intense characters, the object being to dispel summer sleepiness.
Negai-usually o-negai. A prayer or worshipful request addressed to the kami or buddhas, for example inscribed on an ema. In ordinary speech "o-negai shimasu" means "would you please"
Nenchu gyoji-or nenju gyoji. "Events through the year." The annual cycle of [religious] observances. Japanese religion at every level is profoundly calendrical, normally structed around an annual cycle of festivals and special days referred to as nenchu gyoji. Details vary from region to region and among different religious institutions. Shinto shrines, like Buddhist temples and new religious movements virtually define themselves by their particular nenchu gyoju which contain, as well as nationally celebrated festivals such as niiamesai, shichi-go-san, etc., the special festivals or rites of the shrine celebrating its founding or other significant event in its history. The nenchu gyoji may include events dated according to the lunar or solar calendar. The traditional lunar calendar, which required an extra month to be inserted every three years was replaced by the western-style (solar) calendar in 1872. Many festivals are still scheduled by the lunar calendar. Three main festival's date in the solar calendar. These are (1) one month is added to the lunar date (e.g. the 15th day of the 7th month ("July 15th") becomes the 15th day of the 8th solar month (15th August). (2) The festival is held on the same date in the solar calendar as was scheduled in the lunar calendar (15th day of 7th months becomes 15th July). (3) The festival remains fixed by the lunar calendar and therefore moves around the solar calendar like the Muslim Ramadan and to some extent the Christian Easter. In Tokugawa religion the annual ritual calendar combined Buddhist, community and shrine-rites, organized broadly around the gosekku (five seasonal divisions) plus new year (shogatsu) and bon festivals. In the 1870s following the Meiji restoration a new annual calendar of rites was introduced. It emphasized rites for previous emperors in the "unbroken lineage" and for the first time synchronized the nenchu gyoji of shrines throughout the country with the annual ritual cycle of the imperial household (koshitsu saishi), giving a central role to the emperor as priest of the nation. The new ritual calendar gradually superseded the old, especially after the Russo-Japanese war (1904-6) when the annual rites were introduced into schools and promoted by local authorities.
Norito-ritual prayers. Early examples of norito were collected in the 10th century Engi-shiki. Norito may be ancient standard prayers or newly created for certain ritual occasions. They are dignified ritual utterances addressed to the kami during shinto ceremonies. They are both an offering and a description of the attitudes and achievements of the community and the features of the locality. Through norito the kami are both honored and requested to exert their influences on behalf of the worshippers.
Oharae-or o-harai, o-barae-shiki. "Ceremony of great purification." A form of harae rite based on the oharae norito in the Engi-shiki, also known as the Nakatomi no harae after the Nakatomi clan who were authorized to recite it. An o-harae is now performed in the imperial household at shrines throughout Japan twice a year on the last days of the 6th and 12th months (June and December). The term is used for special end-of-year purification rites e.g. in companies. Individuals may also recite the oharae norito as a form of purificatory practice.
Okage-mairi-"thanks" or "blessings" visits. It refers to mass pilgrimages to Ise jingu during the Tokugawa period which took place at irregular intervals, the largest involving 2-5 million people each time-at approximately 60 year intervals (1705, 1771, and 1830). There were many other nation-wide or smaller okage-mairi during this period. The early pilgrimages were relatively restrained, with pious travellers dressed in white, while later okage-mairi such as the largest in 1830 began spontaneously with rumors that Ise tailsmans were falling from the sky (o-fudafuri) and led to mass excitement as workers, men, women and children left their homes with or without permission and converged to Ise, through which they passed who were keen to gain merit and prevent too much disorder by helping the pilgrims along. The pilgrimages mingled religious devotion and adventure with manifold secular pleasures and a spirit of ritual rebellion which sought "world-renewal" (yo-naoshi), readjustment of the inequalities between different classes of society. These outbreaks of popular devotion were deeply deplored by most kokugaku thinkers.
O-kiyome-cleansing, purification, exorcism. A shinto concept used in several new religions where it refers to spiritual healing of illnesses as well as purification of a more abstract kind.
O-mato-shinji-a ceremony usually held at new year where children shoot arrows to drive away evil influences.
Ombashira matsuri-"sacred pillar matsuri." A symbolic rebuilding of the shrine, rather than an actual rebuilding of the central structures. At the Suwa taisha, Nagano, this rite takes place every 6 years, in the year of the monkey and the year of the tiger. Large fir trees are ritually cut down, taken to the shrine and erected in the grounds to represent "pillars" of the new shrine. Each stage of the process (cutting down, dragging out, parading and erecting the timber) is carried out with public participation and formal rituals and parades, in much the same manner as the rebuilding of the Ise shrine every 20 years. A similar rite takes place at other shrines.
O-mikuji-a popular form of divination widely available at shrines. The basic idea is to write down possible courses of action on slips of paper (o-mikuji), place them before the kami and then draw one in order to receive advice. In practice o-mikuji are usually pre-printed slips from which give advice, predictions, cautions and encouragement to moral virtue. They are kept in a chest of small numbered drawers in kiosk within the shrine precincts. The shrine visitor makes the specified small donation, then shakes out a stick from a box. Each stick is numbered. The printed slip is then collected from the drawer with the same number. O-mikuji slips containing bad predictions are usually hung from a tree or frame set up for the purpose to "discard" the prediction (sute-mikuji) and avoid the bad luck.
Omisoka-"great last day of the month". The 31st of December, final day of the old year. It precedes ganjitsu (new year's day) as part of the shogatsu (new year) season, one of the most important periods in the Japanese ritual calendar. Home shrines (both kamidama and butsudan, Buddhist ancestral alters) are cleaned ready for the kami and the ancestors of new year. Omisoka is generally marked by the ringing of a Buddhist temple bell (joya no kane, the watch-night bell) 108 times to drive out all the sins of the old year. It is an integral part of the "demon's out, good luck in" motif of the Japanese new year which transcends religious distinctions, continues with hatsumode (the first shrine visit) the following day and is reiterated at the lunar new year with setsubun.
Otome-mai-dance by virgins, young maidens (otome). The gosechi no mai (five-movement dance) is the oldest form, classified as a type of bugaku. According to legend this dance was performed for the Emperor. Temmu by an "angel" who descended while he was playing the koto and danced, raising her sleeves five times. Other dances perfomed by otome include those which form part of the Daijo-e (harvest rite). A dance called Urayasu no mai was composed for the celebrations of the "2600th anniversary" of the foundation of the Imperial throne in 1940 and is widely performed by eight otome holding fans or bells. Otome-mai also include a dance called Chihaya hibakama performed by red-skirted shrine priestesses (miko).
O-watari-a passage or transit of the kami.
Saigi-the solemn rituals held during matsuri, as distinct from the subsequent celebrations.
Saijitsu-festival day. The particular day in which a festival is held. Dates for seasonal festivals are determined according to the season and the calendar. After 1872 the European solar calendar replaced the Sino-Japanese lunar calendar, introduced in 861 and modified in 1683. In addition, a new and simplified imperial ritual calendar was established and shrines were expected to calibrate their festivals to the imperial nenchu gyoji. The introduction of the solar calendar initially disrupted the ritual year. Most festivals were transposed from the lunar date to the same day of the month in the solar calendar and the date made permanent. The majority of festivals fixed in this way, which means they may be held about a month later in the year now then they used to be. However there is still a significant number of festivals whose dates are determined by the lunar calendar and which is therefore taken place on a different (solar) date each year, hence some fluidity about the boundaries of "summer", "winter", festivals, etc., compounded in a centralized system by the Japanese climate which varies substantially from the south to the extreme north.
Saikai-abstinence, purification. Undertaken by a participant in a shinto ritual. The two levels of abstinence are ara-imi "rough (i.e. less comprehensive) abstinence" and ma-imi "true abstinence."
Saishi-the Sino-Japanese term for matsuri.
Saiten-a term used for matsuri, in the inclusive sense of both solemn rites (saigi) and communal celebrations.
Sanja matsuri-"festival of the three shrines." (In Tokyo: Sanja here is to be distinguished from the Ise/Kasuga/Hachiman sanja). It is held on the three days surrounding the 3rd Sunday in May at the Askusa-jinja. The Asakusa area of Tokyo includes the former Yoshiwara pleasure district of Edo times. On the Saturday up to a hundred machi-mikoshi (town mikoshi) of various sizes parade through the streets and the following day the three honja mikoshi (main shrine mikoshi) called ichi-, ni- and san-no-miya make a ceremonial departure from the Asakusa jinja. The Buddhist-kami deity of Asakusa was formerly called the saja-dai-gongen-sha "great gongen of the three shrines" and was the tutelary deity of the area. The festival features an old style of "binzasara" dengaku in which the dancers beat time with binzasara, wooden slates-tied with cord.
Sankei-a general term for shrine visit. It may refer to regular or occasional visits to a local or regional shrine to worship, or as part of pilgrimage.
Sanno-matsuri-the festival for Sanno (gongen) celebrated at the Hiyoshi or the Hie taisha on Mt. Hiei near Kyoto, and thousands of Hie jinja throughout Japan. At the Hie taisha two Ara-mitama of Oyama-kui-no-kami are brought to a shrine on April 12 to be "married." The following day they are entertained and at night shaken violently by about a hundred men and "give birth" to a child kami. The Sanno matsuri (formerly Sanno-gongen) of the Hie jinja in Tokyo held on June 14-15 was celebrated before the Meiji restoration as the "official festival" (goyo-sai_ for the entertainment of the shogun. It was known as the Tenka ("all under heaven"-the whole country) matsuri, and altered with the kanda matsuri. It was famed for its procession of more than 40 beautiful floats, no longer allowed in Tokyo. The present Shinko gyoretsu (kami-parade) passes through Akasaka, Yotsuya, (sinza and shimbashi and features three mikoshi and two "imperial carriages" choren) with about 400 followers in Heian period costume. Miko perform kagura and a chi-no-wa is set up through which participants pass for good luck, twice to the left and once to the right.
Sanzoro matsuri-a festival performed on the Saturday nearest November 17 at the Tsushima jinja, Shitaru-cho, Aichi. It includes a performance of kagura featuring the seven gods of good luck (shichifukujin).
Sato-kagura-"village kagura." A collective term for various types of popular kagura performed at shrines and festivals throughout Japan. They derive to some extent from the classical forms but involves masked players who enact scenes from the shinto myths and other sources. A narrator usually outlines the action.
seijin shiki-adulthood rite, coming of age ceremony. A rite performed at the shrine on the assumption of (modern) adulthood at age 20.
Seishoku matsuri-fertility festivals, sex festivals. Many shrine festivals, (hadaka matsuri, mikoshi contests, etc.) are evidently meant in part as displays of manhood by those of marriageable age. In some festivals sexual and fertility symbolism predominates. At the Asuka-niimasu jinja, Nara on the 1st Sunday in February actors representing a form of dosojin couple wearing otafuku and saruda-hiko masks enact sexual intercourse. At the Sugawara jinja, Niigata, the tsubura sashi kagura performed on June 15th unites a male divinity holding a giant phallus with a female kami playing a sasara (a percussion instrument consisting of two blocks of wood). The honen ("abundant-year") matsuri of the Tagata jinja, Aichi on March 15th features a parade of large (4-5 meters) and extremely lifelike wooden phalluses carried on mikoshi. The michi-no-kami (kami of the roads) are worshipped in numerous "phallic" shrines such as ebishima jinja and dosojin jinja.
Sengu-"shrine transfer." Also go-sengu, or shiken-gosenza-sai (special year enshrinement rite) or similar. It refers to the practice of transferring a kami from one shrine building to another one which has been newly built, or from the main shrine to an o-tabisho during a matsuri, or simply from one shrine to another in cases where the kami has two "houses". Before the Tokugawa period the practice of transferring a kami to a shrine in a private residence was also widespread. The best-known type of sengu is the shikinsen sengu "special ceremony-year transfer" carried out every 20 years at the Ise jingu, in which Amaterasu is transferred at dead of night to the new neighboring shrine. The sengu procession is a profoundly dramatic and solemn ritual event marked by various taboos (imi). Other sengu at intervals of about a generation was carried out elsewhere, sometimes at shrines of quite small villages. The cost of periodic rebuilding is substantial and now has to be met (including at Ise) by voluntary contributions. Torches (taimatsu), lanterns (chochin), etc., may be used to suggest night-time even where the sengu ceremony actually takes place in daylight.
Senja mairi-"thousand shrine visits." A form of pilgrimage (junpai) popular from late medieval times which involved visits to numerous different shrines on the basis that this generated move merit than repeated visits to a single shrine. The practice of senja mairi was prohibited during the Tempo era (1831-45) shortly before the collapse of the shogunate.
Senko no gi-rite of transfer. An example of sengu. The transfer of the kami of the Wakamiyo shrine in Nara from the shrine to a temporary abode (o-tabisho) for the on-matsuri. The transfer takes place on 17 December and includes private priestly rites, repeated announcements to the kami and a mile long torch lit procession of 50 priests dressed in white, accompanied by musicians and chanting in monotone.
Senza-sai-rite of transferring the seat. The ceremony to transfer a kami to another "seat" perhaps during rebuilding or repair of a shrine. It is usually a solemn ceremony carried out in darkness in a spirit of awe and mystery some larger shrines have a special building called o-kari-den to house the kami during repairs to the honden.
Setsubun-commonly referred to as the bean-throwing festival, setsubun is a new year's ritual related to the Chinese calendar and carried out on 3-4 February, at the old lunar or Chinese new year. "Setsubun" means a season-division, here the day before spring, the beginning of the agricultural year. The rite may be carried out at home or at a shinto shrine or Buddhist temple. In the home the eldest son or another male scatters roasted beans from a wooden box saying "oni wa soto, fuku wa uchi" ("demons out, good luck in"). At shrines and temples guests similarly throw "lucky beans" (fuku-mame) from a platform while members of the public scrabble for them in order to secure good fortune for the coming year. Persons chosen to scatter the beans are called toshi-otoko (year-man). At the Taga taisha, Shiga on February 3rd a hundred toshi-otoko scatter beans and fuku-mochi (lucky rice cakes) to the crowd. At the Heian jinju a figure carrying a staff and wearing an alarming golden mask with four eyes sees off demons.
Shichi-go-san-"seven-five-three." A festival held on November 15th, or very often theses days on the nearest Sunday to make it a two-parent occasion. It is one of the life-cycle rites connected with the ujigami in which girls of three and seven and boys of five (sometimes three and five) dress in their best and brightest clothes (hare-gi), often traditional kimono, and visit their local or ujigami shrine with parents. The visit takes place either on the festival day or sometime during the month. The children take part in a rite for their own protection and future good fortune. Like miya mairi, Shichi-go-san has been growing in popularity in recent years. The origin of the rite is unclear but it is perhaps related to old customs surrounding the first wearing of traditional garments such as hakama for boys and obi for girls. The custom is particularly popular in the Kanto area (around Tokyo). Shichi-go-san also takes place at some Buddhist temples.
Shikinen sengu-"ceremonial year shrine transfer." Usually refers to the ceremonial transfer of the kami of Ise Jingu to the adjacent shrine, rebuilt every 20 years. The latest (61st) sengu ceremony at Ise took place in 1993, though the complex preparatory and concluding rites takes several years on either side of the transfer date. Other major shrines are supposed to be rebuilt at intervals but the cost is prohibitively high. One theory is that the ritual derives from an original custom of rebuilding the shrine every year, with renewal rites on each occasion to re-empower the deity and that the rebuilding took place less often when more permanent shrine structures came into fashion. Another theory is that the rebuilding takes place each (human) generation. The rite of renewal probably owes its origin equally to Chinese (Taoist) sources.
Shinji-sacred ground. A place used at certain times for the performance of rituals.
Shinko-or shinko-shiki, shinko-sai, o-watari, oide-sai, miyuki-matsuri and other expressions. The main procession of kami at festival times, usually headed by a mikoshi (palanquin) which may be accompanied by yatai (festival floats) of various kinds, with a retinue of bearers and attendants often in costume. A spectacular example is the procession at the Gion matsuri. The journey, which is usually to Ano-taisho or temporary resting-place follows a route which may take the kami among the houses and parishioners and in some cases involves crossing water. In practice the shinko may be the major element in a festival, together with solemn rites and celebration.
Shinzen kekkon-"a wedding before the kami." A shinto wedding. Shinto weddings involving a shrine priest or shrine visit are a relatively recent tradition. Buddhism has never regarded marriage as a religious sacrament and Japanese marriage ceremonies were traditionally performed at the home. The custom of involving a shrine priest spread in the Meiji period with the permeation of official "state shinto" (kokka shinto) into civic life. Some weddings are still held as in the past in large country houses before the butsudan or senzodan (ancestor-shelf) without priestly involvement. In contemporary Japan most weddings (about 63 %) are shinto-style, while about 30 % are Christian-style (some are Christian and shinto, in sequence), while 2 % are Buddhist and the rest secular or perhaps according to the rites of one of the new religions if the families are members. Most weddings are held in commercial wedding halls, hotels or at shrines, some of which now have a gishiki-den specially built for wedding ceremonies. The modern shinto-style ceremony is based on the wedding in 1900 of the crown prince who became the Taisho emperor, the first wedding to be held in a shinto shrine. Wedding ceremonies symbolize a transition into the married state. The traditional and largely Confucian values underpinning the lifetime marriage relationship, which is regarded as a very serious commitment between two families rather than, or as well as, a matter for two individuals, have evolved in Japan independently of sectarian religious affiliations. In a classical tract on the duties of women, the Onna Daigaku ("Great Learning" for women) the 17th century moralist Kaibara, Ekken set out the traditional orthodoxy, emphasizing the duty of submission of the new wife as she "returned" to live in the home her husband's parents. Some of the new religions today emphasize a very "traditional" view of marriage, placing the responsibility for the success of the union almost entirely on the wife. The commitment between families is symbolized in the central act of a Japanese wedding, the sharing of cups of sake between the bride and groom and afterwards between each of them and the other's parents. The two families then drink together. Other more "western" rites such as an exchange of rings and the reading of marriage vows (but by groom only) may be performed. Weddings are held on an auspicious days determined by calendrical calculations deriving from popular Taoism. They offer a change for families to dessert their status and aspirations for the newly married couple through displays of wealth, so the provision of impressive weddings is an important source of income for shinto and some Christian institutions in Japan.
Shishi-mai-Lion dance. Also shishi-odori, lion dance or deer dance. In Japan there are several versions of the "Chinese lion" dance which is found throughout the far east, although sometimes in Japan the "lion" masks have horns like deer (shika), and there is another Chinese character pronounced shishi which means beast, deer or wild boar. So shika-odori or shishi-odori both mean "deer dance". Shishi-mai may also feature tigers (tora), as to the autumn festival of the shirotori jinja, Kagawa on October 6-8, the hibuse matsuri of Osaki jinja, Miyagi on April 29th or the Uraga-no-tora-odori, at the Tametomo jinja, Kamagawa, on the 2nd Saturday in June. In some cases the animal may be the mythical kirin beast, who dances at the Kurata Hachiman-gu, Tottori, on April 15. A typical lion costume is green and white and occupied by one to three performers, the front one holding the wooden head, though the head of the shishi at the Kamuro jinja autumn festival in Kagawa is so large that it takes 5-6 men to carry it. Generally the shishi-mai is a dance to cast out or frighten away evil in cursors and is therefore held especially at New Year when a new start is made, and during the spring and summer to scare pests and wild animals (though not lions, since there have never been any in Japan) away from crops. In a modern derivative of this custom village men wearing lion-heads run from house to house scaring away evil spirits in return for a drink. At the natsu (summer) matsuri of the Iku-tama jinja in Osaka the shishi-mai involves 350 performers. Other noteworthy performances are on August 26 at the Mitsumine Jinja at the summit of Mt. Mitsumine, Saitama-ken, on April 17th during the Mai-age-sai (whirling up festivals) of the Ae-kuni jinja, Mie-ken, and at the annual festival of the Izumo Taisha on May 14th. There is a dance similar to the shishi-mai called the tatsu-gashira-mai (dragon's head dance). A dragon-dance of this kind called tatsu-ko is performed at the Nangu jinja, Gifu, at the shrine's annual festival on May 5th. In Ehime prefecture the "shishi-odori" clearly means “deer dance” and has a different character from lion dances. In a graceful ceremony dating from the 7th century a dance of 8 deer (yatsu-shishi-odori) is performed at the Uwatsuhilo jinja, Uwajima-shi in Ehime on October 29 in which youths dressed as deers beat small drums (kodaiko) and dance as they search for female deer.
Shogatsu-new year. Shogatsu refers to the season in general rather than just new year's day, which is ganjitsu. Shogatsu is not itself a matsuri but comprises a complex of elements such as natsu-mode, kadomatsu, hi-no-matsuri, hadaka (naked) festivals and arguably omisoka the last day of the old year. The new year season extends to the old or Chinese lunar new year in February, marked by spring festivals (haru-matsuri) and setsubun.
Shojin-diligence, devotion, making spiritual progress, purification. This may refer to observing abstinences or worshipping the kami.
Shoro nagashi-shoro (also pronounced seirei, shoryo) are souls of the dead, spirit visitors. Shoro nagashi "drifting away of the souls of the dead" refers to the practice (at bon) of floating paper or other boats with lanterns (toro) down river to "send away" souls of the ancestors who have visited for the bon celebrations.
Shubatsu-a harae ceremony which often follows the waving of the haraigushi. Its purpose is to purify the priests and participants for a ceremony. The priest sprinkles water, salt or brine over the assembly from a wooden box, the en-to-oke or magemono.
Shugaku-ryoko-school excursions, frequently made to shinto shrines as well as Buddhist temples and other places of historical and cultural interest. School-children of all ages buy o-mamori (amulets) for their satchels and purchase other shrines souvenirs. Since the study of shinto ideas no longer figures in the school curriculum and shrine visits are no longer made for ideological reasons such visits play a major role in familiarizing present-day Japanese youngsters with shrines.
Sokui kanjo-"accession ordination" a Buddhist ceremony, similar to taking the tonsure, carried out by all new Emperors as part of the daijosai accession rites prior to the Meiji restoration.
Sumida Inari jinja sairei-festival of the Inari shrine of Sumida, Tokyo, celebrated on the weekend nearest to June 15th. Its distinguishing feature is the "mikoshi of a thousand lanterns" (manto mikoshi) illuminated from within.
Sumo-Japanese wrestling. As the "sport of emperors" it is performed in shrines and has acquired many shinto features, such as the shide on wrestlers, loincloths, the salt sprinkled prior to a contest, and the Shimenawa used to construct the arena. A curious festival called Nakizumo (crying sumo) held at the Ikiko jinja, Tochigi babies in their arms, the winner being the one whose baby cries first (sic).
Ta-asobi-rice-field play. A ceremony connected with the planting and/or transplanting of rice. It was traditionally performed around the time of the first full moon of the lunar new year, as a kind of pantomime of the whole cycle of rice cultivation to pray for a good harvest, and emphasizes the close association between shinto matsuri and agriculture. Venues today include the Akasuka Suwa Jinja in Tokyo on February 10th and the Mishima taisha, Shizuoka on January 7. A rite with a similar purpose, the Utsu-ue matsuri of the yatsufusa jinja, Kagoshima is performed on March 6th by men wearing large ox-headed masks. The Fugimori-no-ta-asobi at the Oibachimangu in Shizuoka which takes place on March 17 features 27 different dances. In May-June at rice transplanting time a number of ta-asobi called ta-ue-sai (rice-transplanting festivals) are celebrated in various ways. On the first weekend in April at the Katori Jingu, Chiba, women known as ta-ue onna "rice-planting women" perform a transplanting ceremony accompanied by hayashi music. The Ise Jingu o-ta-ue shinji (rice-planting rite) takes place on 15th June. In the Izonomiya o-ta-ue matsuri in Mie-ken held on June 24, boys aged 5-6 dressed as women play the taiko (large drum). There are also festivals to celebrate the end of transplanting such as the Onda matsuri as Aso-jinja, Kumamoto which is held on July 28 and features a parade of white-robbed unari (women bearing a midday meal to the kami).
Taisai-"grand festival". The top class of festivals as contrasted with chusai (middling festivals) and shosai (minor festivals). It refers to major festivals such as those that attract a kenpeishi. After the Meiji restoration these festivals were fixed by law, but in the post-war period they are deremined by the Jinja Honcho in the "jinja saishi kitei" (regulations on shrine festivals). According to these regulations the taisai may for example be a rei-sai or reitaisai ([great] regular festival), Niiname-sai (harvest festival), Chinza-sai (enshrinement ceremony), senza-sai (shrine-transfer rite), goshi-sai or a festival which has a special historical connection with the shrine.
Takayama matsuri-a festival performed at two venues in Takayama-shi, Gifu. The spring festival (a sanno matsuri) takes place at the Hie jinja, April 14-15th, and the autumn festivals on October 9-10th at the Sakura gaoka Hachiman-gu. Gorgeous three-tiered floats (yatai) topped with a kind of miniature shrine building, some made in the genroku style of the early 18th century and some carrying clockwork marionettes, from a procession. In the spring festival there are 12 floats and in the autumn 11, all richly decorated with lacquer work, metal and patterned cloth and built in such a way that they shake and sway as they are pulled along. The float called hotei-dai features a model of Hotei with two children who swing down on a trapeze and land on his shoulder. Other floats sport Chinese silk prints or carved Chinese lions. A shishi-mai and a special form of folk music with gongs, known as tokeigaku, are performed.
Takuno-no-kodomo kagura-a kagura performed by school children depicting a battle between a kami and a giant snake. It takes place in Takuno-cho, Shimane, from January 1-3.
Takusen-an oracle from a kami or spirit conveyed by a medium, often a woman or child who is possessed by the deity, usually through questions and answers. "Foxes" enshrined in houses and usually identified as Inari or his messenger used to be well-known for delivering useful information through oracles in return for worship, as was the deity ryu in a cult which was widespread in the pre-Meiji period.
Tama-matsuri-a festival to pray for and appease the souls of the dead.
Tama-shizume-or mitama-shizume. A traditional ceremony to pacify the tama of an individual and prevent it leaving the body (e.g. of a sick person).
Tanabata-"seventh night" usually translated as "star festival" since it celebrates a legend from old China of the romance between a heavenly cowherd and a weaving girl. They neglected their work through love for each other and were punished by the god of the skies who ordered them to be set apart at each end of the Ama-no-gawa, the celestial river or Milky Way. They were to work hard and could see each other only on the 7th day of the 7th month. On this day they could enter the celestial river because the god of the skies was way attending to Buddhist sutra-chanting. The festival was officially recognized in 755 and was one of the five main annual festivals until the Meiji restoration. Tanabata involves the whole family and is widely celebrated in homes and schools regardless of religious affiliation. People connected with agriculture and weaving pray for help with these occupations, and youngsters enjoy making their own wishes on paper stars or star-spangled tanzaku (narrow paper stripes for poetry). The major venue for the celebration of tanabata is the cit of Sendai in the north-east of Japan, where homes display decorations of tanzaku hung from bamboo poles and the streets are decorated with great colorful paper streamers. The date of the festival is July 7th of the lunar calendar and like other big tanabata festivals in the north of Japan, which are based in towns rather than at shrines or temples, the sendai tanabata takes place in August (6-8th). Tanabata tends to merge with bon celebrations in mid-August.
Ta-ue-sai-rice transplanting festival.
Temizu-"hand water". It refers to the action of ritually cleansing the hands and mouth with water at a temizu-ya, on entry to a shrine. The temizu-ya contains a tank or large basin of running water, and generally wooden ladles with which to pour the water.
Tenjin matsuri-the tenjin matsuri of the Osaka tenman-gu which takes place on July 24-25th is regarded as one of the three great festivals of Japan and is dedicated to the spirit of Sugawara, Michizane or Tenjin. It is a natsu matsuri (summer festival) which developed in the 16th century with the growth of Osaka as American tile center and includes a parade of mikoshi through the city (rikutogyo) accompanied by music called danjiri-bayashi, namely hayashi performed on small festival floats (danjiri). The rhythm of this music is described in Japanese as "kon-kon-chiki-chin". The mikoshi transfer to an evening floating procession (funatogyo) with lanterns and firework displays along the Dojima river which flows through the city. In the 19th century the river pageant comprised up to 200 boats, although in recent times the number has dropped to less than a hundred. Each carries a "doll" more than six feet high representing a character from a traditional joruri (ballad-drama). The procession includes a moyoshi-daiko, a mikoshi carrying an enormous drum (taiko) played by teams of six men. There are four groups of eight geisha (otome) and a consecrated child (shindo) who walks before the palanquin of the guji (chief priest) carrying the branch of plum tree used to transfer the spirit (mitama) of Michizane from the honden of the shrine to his mikoshi. The procession also includes a chi-no-wa (reed circle) carried on a palanquin. By extension, tenjin matsuri means festivals held at the same time at ten thousand or so kitano tenjin shrines throughout Japan. Many feature exhibitions of calligraphy since Tenjin is the kami of scholarship.
Tenno matsuri-a summer festival traditionally held at shrines dedicated to Gozu tenno or Gion. These used to be widespread in Japan but appear either to have declined or been renamed Gion matsuri since the Meiji period. There is a surviving tenno matsuri (also known as Tsushima matsuri) held at the Tsushima jinja in Aichi on the 4th weekend in July. It features a flotilla of towering, wide "danjiri" boats which float down the Tennogawa river on the evening before the main festival day.
Togyo-the passage of a mi-koshi, or of an imperial procession.
Toka-"stamping song." A rite of Chinese origin traditionally carried out as a haru-matsuri (spring festival) around the time of the first full moon of the new year. Participants form a procession and stamp the earth while singing to pacify the spirit of the earth in order to secure a good harvest. A rather formal toka jinji "stamping dance rite" is conducted by priests at the Atsuta Jingu to pray for a good harvest. It includes divination (bokusen) by the sound of a small drum and a toka no seehie or "stamping song banquet" preceded by ten minutes of saikai (abstinence). The Atsuta rite, now held on January 11th, is listed among the annual festivals of the shrine in the Heian period. Toka may also mean "10th day".
Toka ebisu-"10th day Ebisu" matsuri. A festival held at the Imamiya Ebisu-jinja in Osaka and at other Ebisu shrines. The main part, hon-ebisu is on the 10th day of the new year, with a preceding part, the "yoi ebisu" on 9th January and the concluding "nokorifuku" on 11th. The festival features a parade of kago or palanquins bearing geisha. Participants in the festival shout "shobai hanjo de sasa motte" ("bring us the sasa leaves that give business prosperity") as they receive from officiates a lucky decoration made of bamboo grass (sasa).
Tokushu shinji-special shrine ceremonies or rites. A term used since the Meiji period to identify an archaic or otherwise important local rite or element with a festival unique to particular shrine. Examples include many of the five annual festivals (gosekkai), yabusame, kurabe-uma (horse races) and rites with a Chinese or Buddhist flavor such as the new year's shusho-e or a tsuina rite where people dressed as devils try to enter the shrine or temple and are chased away by priests. Two specific examples are the Mi-are matsuri for the selection of seeds held on May 12th at the Kamo wake-ikazuchi jinja and the morotabune (many-handed boat) matsuri at Miho jinja, Shimane. The boat race recapitulates an episode from the Izumo, fudoki in which a kami pulled areas of land together. A list of "special rites" was developed over many years and finalized in a register published in 1941, but the Jinja Honcho today does not maintain a category of such rites. Some of these rites are believed to have very ancient origins and contain elements not shown to the public.
Tono matsuri-an autumn festival of the Tonogo Hachiman shrine, Iwate. A unique form of festival music and dance called nambu-bayashi (southern music) is performed as well as traditional arts which include shishi-odori (lion dances), taue-odori (rice-planting dance), yabusame (horseback archery), kagura using hyottoko and okame masks and a children's costumed parade (chigo gyoretsu).
Toshi don-new year "don". Don means something like a brute or devil in this context. A custom found in southern Japan in which men with fearsome devil masks visit houses at new year, warn children against bad behavior like the namahage of the north, and distribute toshi-don mochi rice cakes.
Toshi-goi no matsuri-a new year matsuri praying for a good drop. Literally "[new] year prayer matsuri."
Tosho-gu haru no taisai-"Grand spring rite at Toshogu." A festival now held on May 17-18th (until 1951 it was on June 1st and 2nd) at the Toshogu shrine in Nikko. It honors the first shogun, Tokugawa, Ieyasu (1542-1616) enshrined at tosho dai gongen. The procession, which departs from Fitarasan jinja, visits the otabisho and returns to the Toshogu shrine, comprises about 1200 adults and children dressed in samurai and other costumes of the Tokugawa period.
Toyama-no-shimotsuki matsuri-this matsuri includes a kagura performance featuring a kamado (a cooking-stove) on which water boiled. It takes place in Minamishinano-mura, kami-mura, Nagano, from December 3-16.
Tsuina-a rites of Chinese origin in which devils played by masked actors try to enter the shrine or temple and are chased away by priests.
Tsuki-nami no matsuri-in general, a "monthly festival", a matsuri celebrated routinely at a shrine onset days of the month, such as the first and 15th. The Tsukinami-sai of the Ise jingu however is a special festival held on a large scale on 15th-17th June and again on 15th-17th December.
Tsukimachi-a moon-waiting assembly. A popular religious custom in which a group of believers meet on specified evenings, e.g. 15th, 17th, 19th and 23rd days of the first, 5th and 9th months of the lunar calendar, to worship and pray.
Tsukimi-moon-viewing, a tradition found in Japan and China. The most beautiful moon is seen between 15th and 20th September. Participants form moon-viewing parties to drink sake, compose songs, eat tsukimi-dango (rice-flour dumplings) and pray for good weather and a good harvest. The rite has no formal connection with shinto shrines.
Tsunabi-"rope-fire." Japanese fireworks, so-called because the traditional method was to fill a bamboo tube with gun powder and fire it along a rope. The method was used for signaling and setting fire to high places. Fireworks are used at a number of shrine festivals in summer and early autumn where their use is probably related to prayers for rain and the ripening of the crop. Notable examples, all from Ibaraki are the katsuragi-ryu ( a lineage of performers) tsunabi which combines hayashi music and tsunabi puppets at the Hitokotonushi jingu (13th September) and the Karakasa manto ritual at Washi-jinja. "Karakasa" is a huge Chinese-style bamboo "hat" set on fire by a tsunabi from a torii 100 meters away, manto means "10,000 lights." The takaoka-ryu (also a lineage) tsunabi at Atago jinja on July 23rd by the lunar calendar are attached to puppets who, when they are shot along the ropes appear to be performing unsupported.
Ueno tenjin matsuri-a festival held at the Sugawara jinja in Ueno, Mie prefecture, October 23rd-25th. On the final day of the festival there is a procession of more than 100 demons (oni-gyoretsu) said to have originated in an attempt to stop a plague. The demons are followed by shichi-fuku-jin odori (dancers representing the seven gods of good fortune) and various yatai and mikoshi.
Uesugi matsuri-"uesugi festival." One of a number of patriotic festival inaugurated in the Meiji period, often at shrines (bekkaku kampei-sha) built for the purpose of promoting Japan's past military heroes. It commemorates the exploits of Terutora (known as kenshin, "humble faith"), uesugi (1530-1578) who is remembered as a virtuous and principled warlord opponent of Nobunaga, Oda. His posthumous Buddhist name is Shinko. In 1887 Uesugi was also enshrined in the new Kasugayama jinja, Niigata, where his action in supplying salt to the town of Takeda when other feudal lords refused to do so is remembered in the kenshin matsuri held on September 13th. At the Uesugi jinja, Yamagata, built in 1871 and designated a bekkaku-kampei-taisha in 1902, mock battles and colorful warrior parades (musha gyoretsu) during the four day festival which runs from April 29th-May 3rd recall a series of battles over 12 years between Uesugi and his arch-enemy Takeda, Shingen. Takeda is similarly memorialized on his death-anniversary by a pre-battle ceremony (shutsujin-shiki) of 24 commanders and a mock battle. His festival shingenko matsuri or "Lord Shingen matsuri") is held on the weekend nearest April 12th at the Takeda jinja in kofu, Yamanashi.
Ujigami-sai-the annual festival for the tutelary deity (ujigami) of a community. It was traditionally organized by annual rotation among the elite male members (ujiko) of a shrine guild (miyaza), who prepared themselves for the year-long responsibility by purification and abstinence. From the Meiji period onwards these festivals were increasingly presided over by shinto priests, with a corresponding decline in the shrine guilds and widening of participation in the festivals to the whole community, all members of which were now regarded as ujiko.
Warei taisai-"great matsuri of the Warei jinja" at Uwajima, Ehime prefecture. This seafaring festival began in the 18th century and among other activities involving ships, flags and the carrying of mikoshi into the sea features an extraordinary effigy of a broad, long-necked creature called an ushi-oni or "cattle-demon". A whale-like dragon who is paraded round the town carried by 15-20 youngsters.
Yabusame-horseback archery. The archer shoots arrows at targets as he races past. It is a military art which has been used as a form of divination, bokusen. Famous examples include the ceremonies at Morioka Hachimangu and at the Tsurigaoka Hachimangu in Kamakura.
Yaku-barai-misfortune-purification. A type of harae (purification) designed to prevent calamity, for example during the yakudoshi year, or where bad luck or disaster occurs too frequently.
Yamato-mai-the dance of Yamato. A form of dance performed at court and during festivals as early as the 4th century. It forms part of the kagura repertoire. Yamato-mai songs are used at shrines including Ise jingu and at other shrines, such as the Oyama A furi Jinja, Kanagawa and the Kasuga taisha.
Yao-otome-the eight (or lucky, or many) virgins. A group or procession of virgins, i.e. "pure" girls under the age of menstruation, which is polluting. Often today it actually refers to a group of chigo-girls and boys under 12, who may be accompanied in a procession by their mothers.
Yogoto-a form of norito recited for the continuity of the imperial reign. The Nakatomi no yogoto is recited on the day of the emperor's accession and the yogoto of the kuni no miyatsuko of Izumo is pronounced at the beginning of a new reign.
Yoi-matsuri-"eve-of festival". The day, or evening, before the hon-matsuri or main festival day. A Japanese festival often seems to cover two days because the traditional "day" lasted from sunset to sunset.
Yudate matsuri-cauldron ceremony. A ceremony in which water is boiled in a large cauldron and then sprinkled over participants and worshippers with bamboo fronds. It bears some relation to other heat-generating rites such as firewalking and is sometimes used to enable a miko to become possessed by the kami. A stylized version of the rite which originated at Ise forms part of the kagura repertoire, as yudate kagura.