This character is a so-called compound ideograph. What regards the upper part 宀 (ukanmuri: roof classifier) which can be seen also in a lot of other characters, it does not simply show a roof, but is the roof of a mausoleum. This character points at the basis of Asian religious culture, the custom of memorial service for the ancestors and ancestor worship. One key to the long period of peace that can be seen in Asian history thus is included in this Kanji. By thinking about the favors received from the ancestors, it is possible to endure the hardships of human life and one becomes wide-hearted and more broad-minded. When recalling one’s ancestors with their different ways of thinking and life philosophy, one becomes more tolerant regarding people leading diametric opposite lives and holding completely different opinions in the present, and the essence of human life shows.
The lower part is a priestess or shrine maiden engaged in a ritual in the mausoleum. Shintō, the indigenous religion of Japan also often has rituals with shrine maidens inspired when in religious frenzy. In such a state, the priestess gets relaxed and conveys a divine message. The appearance of the priestess or shrine maiden at this time stresses her eyes with what in the character form of the Common Use Kanji looks like a grass-classifier but actually is a curse decoration. Both, the minds and hearts of the family taking part in the ritual as well as the relaxed conduct of the priestess or shrine maiden contribute to the meaning of the character.
Ohitaki Taisai is a Shinto ritual held at Tarobogu in Kowaki-cho, Omi City, Shiga Pref. on the first Sunday of December every year. Tarobogu, or formally named Aga Shrine, located on the mountainside of Mt. Akagamiyama (350 m) is said to have been founded about 1,400 years ago. It is also friendlily called “Tarobo-san” by the local people. Ohitaki Taisai is one of the largest fire festivals in Japan. 300,000 pieces of gomagi (holy wood) are thrown into the holy fire and burned as katashiro (body substitute) to purify the dedicators’ sins and impurities, which enable them to greet the New Year with refreshed mind. When the fire dies down, ascetic practitioners walking on the embers and then “Yamabushi Mondo (questions and responses about the lives of mountain practitioners) is performed. This is a traditional ritual known all over the country as a holy fire festival.
A mikoshi is a type of portable float that the divine spirits of Shinto gods temporarily inhabit when they are transferred from one shrine to another or taken outside during shrine festivals.
Most mikoshi are in the shape of a miniature shrine. Also there are mikoshi shaped as sacred trees, phallic-shaped ones, or ones with figures on them. Usually a mikoshi weighs about 1 ton, with larger ones weighing about 2 tons or more.
The origin of these shrines is the altar made for harvest festivals, when pre-historic peoples of Japan lived as hunter-gatherers. After people settled and started to live by agriculture, shrines became the place where the gods settled. Later, the mikoshi became the vehicle for the Shinto gods, and took the well-known shape it has today.
It is believed that mikoshi spread all over the country around the Heian period, along with the belief in the divine spirits of the Shinto gods.
Oyama-Afuri Shrine is located in Oyama, Isehara City, Kanagawa Prefecture.
The shrine's main deity, the god Oyama, is originally a mountain god, but also a sea god. In olden times, during droughts, sea people prayed to Oyama for rain.
The deity in the subsidiary shrine, Takaokami, is popularly known as a Tengu (long-nosed goblin), one of the 8 major Tengu.
The shrine was said to have been built in the reign of the Sujin Emperor. In the fourth year of the Tenpyoshoho period (752), Roben built Afuri-oyama temple, a Buddhist place of worship, yet a part of the shrine.
After the Middle Ages, Oyama Temple became popular as a center of esoteric Buddhism and many samurai worshiped here. In the Edo period, groups of Oyama commoners visited and worshiped here, too.
In the Meiji period, Buddhist and Shinto gods were separated, and Oyama temple was rename Afuri Shrine, its original name.
Oyama-Afuri Shrine is a commoners shrine that many people have been visiting since the Edo period.
Tado Taisha is a shrine located in Tado-cho, Kuwana City, Mie Prefecture. Its tutelary deity is Amatsu-hikone, the 3rd child of the sun goddess Amaterasu-Ookami.
Because it enshrines one of the sons of Amaterasu-Ookami, the shrine has a strong connection with the Ise Grand Shrine, as can be seen from the famous poem: 'If you come to Ise Shrine to worship, then you should visit Tado Shrine, too. If you don't, then your visit will only be half of what it could be.'
The shrine is also commonly known as Kita-ise-daijinja, Tado-daijinja, and so on. In the case of Tado Taisha, the name stands for Tado-jinja as the main structure, combined with other additional minor small shrines in the vicinity. From ancient times, Mt Tado (403m) has been worshipped as a divine mountain, as can be seen from the Iwakura (sacred stone) found halfway up the mountain.
The shrine is said to have been first constructed in the mid-5th century during the reign of Emperor Yuuryaku. It was burned down by Nobunaga Oda in 1571, but rebuilt in 1605 by Tadakatsu Honda. The shrine holds seven National Important Cultural Assets including Tado-kyou, Jingu-jigaran-engi-narabini-shizai-chou, and others.
The Hojo Ya festival is an especially famous Shinto festival held in Fukuoka City. Hojo Ya is a religious ritual involving the freeing of all captive animals, and the banning of any taking of life during the festive period.
Although a Shinto festival, the practise of avoiding killing animals is Buddhist, but was absorbed into Shintoism. The festival is held in many temples and shrines all over the country in spring or autumn, along with the harvest thanksgiving rituals.
The enormous Hojo Ya at Hakozakigu in Fukuoka Prefecture is counted among the three largest festivals of Hakata City. During the festival period, more than 700 stalls line the 1km approach to the shrine gates, while many interesting events take place within the precincts of the shrine.
Each year sees more than a million visitors, and services are held for deceased pets, or other living creatures that were reluctantly killed during the festival period. The Hojo Ya is a gigantic event that rouses the enthusiasm of all of Fukuoka in autumn.
Futamiokitama Jinja is a shrine located in Futami, Watarai-gun, Mie Prefecture. It is famous for the Meoto-iwa (Husband and Wife Rock) that is located in front of it on the seashore. The shrine's deities are Sarutahiko and Ukanomitamanokami (also known as Jingu Geku-toyouke-no-okami).
In 1909, Okitama Shrine and Mimiya Shrine (with the deity Ukanomitamanokami) were joined to become the Futamiokitama Jinja. In the past, it was a custom for people to purify themselves at the Futaminoura before paying homage at the Ise-Jingu. Nowadays, that custom has changed, and people now cleanse themselves with purified salt at the Futamiokitama Jinja. People who wish to participate in the 'okihiki' (carrying of building material) and 'oshiraishimochi' (bringing rocks for building) for the rebuilding and repair of the shrine, must, even today, go through a traditional cleansing and purification ritual known as 'hama-sangu'.
Futamiokitama Jinja is a shrine connected to the Ise-Jingu. Besides its remarkable scenery, it holds an enthralling and important place in the history and myths of Japan.