Kurt Bell

A life of courage, joy and independence.

Japan Shinto Miko 巫女 Blessing Ceremony on New Year’s Day

Japanese Shinto Miko-san

Japanese Shinto Miko-san

Here’s an interesting Japanese New Year’s ceremony. The folks in the crowd have just purchased the arrows which are called Hamaya in Japanese. These are a form of household good luck charm which are renewed at the start of each year. At the start of the video the young woman in red and white (she’s a type of priestly assistant called Miko-san) is handing back arrows she has already blessed. She then gathers more arrows and proceeds to the center of a large platform. While traditional musicians play she dances and rings a bell in an effort to gain the attention of the deity which blesses the arrows. She then hands them back to the folks who gave them to her who will take them home as wards and charms for safety, health and good fortune in the new year. My family and I were here yesterday to petition favor of the deity of academics ahead of our daughters junior high school entrance exams. A fun and interesting day! 🙂

More about the Shinto religion

People praying at a Japanese Shinto shrine

People praying at a Japanese Shinto shrine

Shinto is one of the two major religions of Japan (the other is Buddhism).  Shinto is often considered to bethe native religion of Japan, and is as old as Japan itself.  The name Shinto means “the way of the gods.”  Shinto is a pantheistic religion, in which many thousands of major and minor gods are thought to exist.  The Japanese have built thousands of shrines (jinja) throughout the country to honor and worship these gods.  Some shrines are huge and are devoted to important deities.  Other shrines are small and may be easily missed when strolling along roads in the countryside.

Shinto gods are called kamiKami are thought to have influence on human affairs, and for this reason many Japanese make regular pilgrimage to community shrines in order to offer prayers to local kami.  The act of prayer involves approaching the shrine structure, passing through the gate-like torii, cleansing the hands and mouth with water and possibly ascending stairs to the main entrance of the shrine.  Usually without entering the shrine the worshipper will throw some coins into a stone or wooden collection box and then rattle the suzu bell which is at the top of a long hemp rope.  The worshiper grabs hold of the rope and shakes it back and forth causing the copper bell at the top to rattle.  This is thought to get the attention of the shrine god.  The worshipper then bows twice, claps his or her hands twice and then bows again.  In addition, the worshipper may clasp their hands together in silent prayer.  Shintoism and Buddhism have managed to find a comfortable coexistence in Japan.  Evidence of this harmonious relationship is found in the fact that that most Japanese are married in a Shinto shrine, but buried by a Buddhist priest.

Japanese torii Shinto shrine gates

Japanese torii Shinto shrine gates

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