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[Soul of Japan] Imperial Rituals of Matsuri at Jingu



Many of Japan’s traditions and ideas are unfamiliar to those outside of Japan. Therefore, JAPAN Forward and Jinja Honcho have collaborated to bring readers an explanation of the key concepts of kami, matsuri, shrines, myths, and many other traditions and beliefs which form the core of Japanese culture. 

The “Soul of Japan” series provides an introduction to Shinto and Ise Jingu, focusing in this segment on the festivals and rituals of Ise Jingu, especially those for the gifts of cloth and the cultivation and harvest of rice.


Ever since the enshrinement of Amaterasu-Omikami in Ise 2,000 years ago, the priesthood of Jingu have conducted rituals and prayed for a peaceful world. 


These rituals and ceremonies are performed under the direction of Amaterasu-Omikami’s direct descendent, the Tenno (emperor) himself. Thus, the rituals conducted at Jingu can be referred to as the imperial rituals.



Matsuri (festivals or rituals) at Jingu can be divided into three groups. 


The first group includes regularly-conducted daily and annual rituals, such as Kanname-sai in October (related to the first rice harvest of the year) and Tsukinami-sai in June and December (involving food offerings).


The second group consists of exceptional rituals, which are conducted on special occasions for the benefit of the imperial family, the nation, or Jingu. 


The third group are rituals for Sengu (rebuilding) conducted every 20 years.



The Tenno sends an imperial envoy to Jingu to dedicate textiles called heihaku for certain important rituals. Some of the rituals feature the sacred dance and music called kagura.


Annual rituals are based on the cycle of rice cultivation, the staple food of the Japanese. The most important ceremony of the year is the Kanname-sai. During this ceremony the Jingu priests offer the first rice of the year harvested in Jingu, and dedicate a prayer of gratitude to Amaterasu-Omikami for presenting the original first rice to the terrestrial world through her grandson.


At the Kanname-sai, an ear of new rice grown by the Tenno is also dedicated to the kami. Furthermore, ears of new rice collected from rice farmers throughout the country are hung along the fence of the main sanctuary.



Source: Jinja Honcho 



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