Shinto rituals: Linking Communities and Deities
Since ancient times, Shinto rituals have been held at sacred sites across Japan, bringing people together and creating bonds between the participants through their shared faith. Many of those rituals are held in the autumn. Moreover, the 10th month of the lunar calendar (November in the Gregorian calendar) is a time when the many deities of Japan are said to gather for their annual conference. On this episode of Journeys in Japan, we take a deeper look at the diverse and vibrant rituals of Shinto, meet some of the people who take part in them, and discover the deep bonds that link those participants.

Aofushigaki Shinto Ritual

Mihonoseki-cho (Matsue City, Shimane Pref.) is home to Miho Shrine, the headquarters of the 3,385 Ebisu shrines around Japan. A ritual called Aofushigaki Shinji has been held here continuously for more than 700 years. Each year in April, the ritual reenacts the myth of the god Ebisu, who was pressured by the supreme deity to hand over the land of Miho to her, and then, after doing so, concealed himself. Two parishioners are selected to take part, and have to follow strict observances to prepare for their roles, such as purifying themselves by bathing in seawater every day for a year.

Otomouma no Hashirikomi

Kikuma-cho (Imabari City, Ehime Pref.) is known as a center for producing roof tiles for Japanese homes. Each year in October, a Shinto ritual known as Otomouma no Hashirikomi is held in the town, a tradition that has been handed down for over 600 years. We meet Tsubosaka Tomoki and his 6-year-old son, Kouma, who is due to ride in the event for the first time. We see the importance of this ritual for the community and the bond it creates between father and son.

Takomaishiki Shinji (Octopus Dance Performance Ritual)

Hoki-cho (Seihaku-gun, Tottori Pref.) stands at the foot of Mt. Daisen, the symbol of the prefecture. Every year in late autumn, this farming town is the venue for a very unusual Shinto ritual called Takomaishiki Shinji, which is based on a myth chronicled in the Kojiki (Records of Ancient Matters), an ancient document compiled 1,300 years ago. We meet the caretaker of the ritual, Nishimura Mitsuki, who has taken part in it since he was a child and who is helping to keep it alive. We also view the vigorous ritual, which depicts the joy displayed by an octopus that helped save a deity from drowning.