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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Japanese culture

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Reflections of August

Reflections of August

A tumultuous month, but one of growth. As September begins, the fire inside that was being whipped in the wind, will now begin to glow brighter and brighter. It will be needed for the inevitable Winter after the Fall.

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  • Aryós Héngwis
    Aryós Héngwis says #
    Excellent post! I think when it comes to worship and religious practice there's usually two different approaches, which are the p


I am surprised that the month is already almost over, and what a month it has been. I had been meaning to write since the year end purification festival, known in Japanese as Nagoshi no Oharae (Half Year Purification), or also my shrine, Hantoshi Kansha Sai (Half Year Appreciation Ceremony), but responsibilities, and also tragedies had hit the country, and my priorities had shifted towards these incidents.

I will start from the beginning — that is, at the end of June on the 24th, we held our Half Year Appreciation Ceremony.
At this time, in Shinto traditions, it is a time to reflect on the year so far since New Year’s. It is an important time of renewal — the renewing and reflection of our hearts and souls. It is also to give thanks for the year so far, and to pray for the next 6 months of the year to go well. The date itself varies from shrine to shrine, but this event is usually commemorating the Summer Solstice, or the time around and after the Solstice.

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  • Aryós Héngwis
    Aryós Héngwis says #
    I'm sorry it's been such a chaotic, discordant month. As always I appreciate you sharing your thoughts here. I do find it very in

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Ceremony day at Konkokyo Hongo Shrine

This article will be a little different than my usual informational style, it is a more of an experience day to share! I hope you will also enjoy to read, and I'd love to hear your thoughts and opinions about this style too.

It helps me a lot to keep me writing. For informational posts, I often need to fact check, cross-check, have other priests read over the content, and read over them many times myself - so I can write unbiased and factual information. In combination with a hectic schedule, it takes a long time to post a new article. I really think quality is more important than quality - especially in informational posts. However, to keep things fresh, I do have lots of experiences living Shinto day to day. So I thought about writing them in the meantime as I work on the informational posts.

My thinking is, Shinto is a way of living as much it is a faith with myth, rituals, and beliefs. In addition to sharing what I know about the myths, rituals, beliefs, and customs, I also think it is good to share the day to day mundane life while practicing Shinto. That is, how faith is expressed in everyday life. That we don't only experience the blessings of kami at shrines, but day to day (that is actually the origin of my blog name, living with kami!) So I hope you will enjoy to read these style articles too!

So, yesterday, I went with Masafumi-sensei, my partner who is also a priest, to Konkokyo Hongo shrine in Tokyo. He was invited to give a sermon there. In Shinto, especially Kyoha Shinto like Konkokyo and even Izumo Taishakyo, after a ceremony, a priest gives a sort of 'sermon' - but it is less like sermons in Christian church, and more like saying words of appreciation, giving shrine announcements, and then the main part is to share a faith story or spiritual experiences, or prayers answered they have had with the kami of the shrine, and/or elaborate on how to live with kami in our lives day to day. Masafumi-sensei's sermon, for example, was telling the story of why he decided to become a priest, and how he helps people in his present life with Kami-sama since becoming ordained.

While Masafumi-sensei was invited to give a sermon, I was invited as well as a guest. I felt very humbled for the invitation, and I am always excited to see how each Konko shrine looks on the outside, the inside, how they decorate their altar, what prayers do they use, what rites do they incorporate, and so on. The beauty of Konkokyo is every shrine can do things in their own ways and have some flexibility how to decorate the altar or the order to use prayers, or what rites to include or omit, and I really love to see the diversity, and even get some good ideas for our shrine!

So, Masafumi-sensei and I first left from Yokosukachuo station at about 9:30am; we head straight into Tokyo but first got off a few stops early to have ramen at this really delicious shop, called 'Himuro' which specializes in Hokkaido style miso ramen. The food was absolutely delicious and great price too. If you find yourself in the area – I'd definitely reccomend to eat there!


The super delicious ramen at Himuro !

Afterwards, we got back on the train and rode a few stops to the Hongo shrine. To my surpise, it was right beside Nezu shrine! Not even a 30 second walk, you could walk right from Konkokyo Hongo shrine into Nezu shrine. I was really shocked. Masafumi-sensei planned for us to visit Nezu shrine before we went to Hongo shrine, but I thought it would at least be a 5-10 minute walk judging from the map. But actually, they were next-door neighbors!

We walked around Nezu shrine for a little bit. I had been there once before, but it was raining, and much past 5pm so the gate to the shrine was closed. I never got to see the Haiden (worship hall) or pray to Susanoo no Mikoto, who is enshrined there. So, while it was still raining that day, (as fitting as the weather is for Susanoo no Mikoto!) I got to pray there and greet him, and I was really thankful I got a chance to come back.

Nezu shrine has a very interesting history in Tokyo. The legends say it was founded by Yamato Takeru no Mikoto, a famous prince in Japanese history, who was the son of Emperor Keikou. Emperor Keikou reigned traditionally from 71 to 130 AD, so Yamato Takeru is said to have lived about that era as well (though it is said he died in the 43rd year of the Emeperor's reign, or 114 AD)

Yamato Takeru no Mikoto is said to have founded Nezu shrine originally in Sendagi, a location a bit north of the current location of Nezu shrine. The current location was built in 1705 on orders of Tokugawa Ienobu, and it makes it one of the oldest shrines in Tokyo. Unfortunately no remnants remain of the shrine from the original location, but the power of Susanoo no Mikoto enshrined is still very strong.

When I visited this time, I was in awe at the palace-like architecture and the deep inner haiden. I did not take a picture of the haiden out of respect and the general air not to take photos of inside, but I felt the power.


The side view of the Haiden of Nezu Shrine


The gate of Nezu shrine, which was once closed


Back of the komainu of Nezu Shrine

Masafumi-sensei and I greeted Susanoo no Mikoto, and then we went on our way to Hongo shrine..which was still, to me, shockingly easy, Tenchi Kane no Kami-sama and Susanoo no Mikoto being next door neighbors! It made me really happy to see though. It reminded me how Konkokyo Shiba shrine and Hibiya shrine are also right across from each other, and give each other offerings for their ceremonies. I like that there is the sense of community.

As we approached Hongo shrine, it was also so beautiful and powerful. It is surrounded by trees and one particularly large, old tree. In addition, the shrine had been recently renovated, and smelled that lovely, addicting smell of fresh hinoki which I love! Masafumi-sensei and I were deeply impressed by the shrine – while we both love the scent of hinoki, what we loved was shrine also kept very traditional style.


Front of Konkokyo Hongo shrine

An eight petal mirror on Kami-sama's altar, shimenawa marking the sacred area, the large shrine doors that gave off Kami-sama's usual strong, yet gentle and calming power. The Mitama no Kami (ancestral spirits) altar also had a very strong power too. After all, I thought, this is a sacred place of Tenchi Kane no Kami-sama, and the ancestral spirits who were the community of this shrine from many years ago, the virtue was definitely felt strongly here too, and I was so glad.


Tenchi Kane no Kami-sama's altar at Hongo shrine

When we got there, we purified our hands and mouth at the temizuya (sacred fountain for cleansing), then head inside. We prayed to Kami-sama and the mitama-sama, then did toritsugi mediation (mediating to Kami-sama via the priest there to give thanks for getting to the shrine safe) and gave our offering for the Grand Ceremony.



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  • Aryós Héngwis
    Aryós Héngwis says #
    Thank you for sharing this Olivia. These insights are always welcome alongside the more informational blogs .
  • Thesseli
    Thesseli says #
    This sounds absolutely lovely.

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Tamagushi: What is it, and how to offer it

Hello everyone! I apologize for not updating as often as I'd like - I had been in a period of transition from May to June, and July was full of ceremonies, both private and public. Now that I've got a better handle of my time and schedule, please look forward to more posts!

For start, here is a short and simple article explaining tamagushi. There is more theories to their origins, and etmology theories to the word, however, what I wanted to explain here is the essence of tamagushi and it's present meaning.

Tamagushi (玉串, translated as jewel skewer) is an ancient offering to Kami-sama, it is usually a sakaki tree branch, or at times when there is no sakaki availible, an evergreen branch such as cedar, and shide (zigzag strip of white rice paper) on top attached to  the leaves. There can be larger and more elaborate tamagushi, with red and white cloth, and asa (sacred hemp fibres) tied in a ribbon on the top as well alongisde two shide. 


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  • Aryós Héngwis
    Aryós Héngwis says #
    Welcome back, Olivia! Your presence was missed. This is a very interesting insight into a particular part of Shinto ritual that I
Hinamatsuri 雛祭り: Doll’s Festival on Girls Day

Hinamatsuri is today, March 3rd! Or, depending on your timezone, has already passed. While some may be enjoying the view of their dolls, or other families may be placing them back in their storage boxes, let’s take a look about the origins, customs, and meaning of Hinamatsuri - particularly from a spiritual and historical perspective. 


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  • Sarah Avery
    Sarah Avery says #
    I'm really enjoying your blog series, and it has special significance for me. When I was 7, my family moved to Japan, and we staye

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