Shimekazari is said to come from shimenawa rope which is used in shrines to mark the boundaries of a sacred area.
In welcoming the New Year, it is hung over the front of the house to mark it as a sacred area. It is also used as a lucky charm to prevent misfortune or evil spirits from entering the house, or to bring long life and bumper crops.
Many areas in the Tohoku region still preserve customs that use, along with shide and daidai, some food to decorate for shimekazari. This may include such things as mochi (sticky rice), Konbu (kelp), pine needles and fish.
Konbu stands for joy as it sounds similar to the word, yorokobu, (to be happy). Fish is used to pray for good health for the family and, in some cases, to indicate the elevated social rank of the house’s occupants. It is also believed to summon a big catch of fish.
The food used in shimekazari indicates appreciation for a rich harvest in the past year as well as hopes for the same in the coming year.
Hie Shrine is a Shinto shrine in Nagatacho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo. The enshrined deoty is Oyamakui-no-kami, the god of Mount Hie in Shiga prefecture. It is said that when Ota Dokan constructed Edo Castle in 1478, he erected a Sanno-Hie Shrine in the compound for a guardian deity of the castle. When Tokugawa Ieyasu was enfeoffed with Edo (present-day Tokyo), he relocated it to the grounds of Edo Castle, and worshipped the deity as the protector of Edo. The citizens of Edo also had strong faith in Hie Shrine as the founding god of their town. In 1607, when Ieyasu’s son, Tokugawa Hidetada, planned to make improvement on the castle, he moved the shrine out, so the people of Edo could worship there.
Sanno Festival held in June every year is one of the three great festivals of Edo; the others are Kanda Festival at Kanda Shrine in Chuo-ku and Fukagawa Hachiman Festival at Tomioka Hachiman Shrine in Fukagawa in Koto-ku. In the Edo period (1603-1868), Sanno Festival and Kanda Festival were also called “Tenka Matsuri,” which means the Shogun’s Festival, because the festivals were protected by the Tokugawa Shogunate and the festival processions were allowed to enter the grounds of Edo Castle for the Shogun to view them.
The high-spiritted Edokko (natives to Edo) would have said, “Sanno Festival is too refined, isn’t it?” Any way, why don’t you try experiencing one of these great festivals of Edo, if you have time?
Yukura Shrine is located in Yukawa-cho, Hakodate City, Hokkaido. The enshrined deities are Oanamuchi no Mikoto and Sukunahikona no Kami. The shrine is said to have been founded in 1617.
In 1653, Matsumae Takahiro, the little son of Matsumae Ujihiro, the lord of the Matsumae domain, was suffering from a serious illness. His mother, Seiryoin, got a revelation in a dream telling her to put her son in the hot spring in the precinct of this shrine. When she did as she was told, Takahiro completely recovered from his illness. In the next year, the Matsumae clan constructed the main hall and dedicated some treasures including a golden statue of Yakushi Nyorai and a bronze-made Waniguchi (a metal gong) in token of their gratitude.
The shrine is also believed to be the guardian of the hot spring town of Yukawa. To the left of the main hall stands a stone monument inscribed with the words “the Birthplace of Yukawa Hot Spring” and its history. Covered with huge ginkgo trees and other greenwood, there is a tranquil atmosphere in the precinct.
Okera-mairi is an annual event to celebrate the New Year at Yasaka Shrine in Kyoto. It begins on New Year's Eve and ends on the morning of New Year's Day.
The practise of Okera-mairi comes from the belief that, by bringing the holy fire of Yasaka home in the New Year and cooking a 'zoni' (vegetable soup with rice cakes in it) from that fire, one will have perfect health for the next year.
'Okera' is an asteraceous perennial, and its root was traditionally used as a gastrointestinal medicine in Chinese traditional medicine. It was also used as a charm to ward off evil spirits by feeding it into the flames. These beliefs and practices turned out to become today's Okera-mairi.
After the ceremony of the watch night on New Year's Eve, the holy fire is divided into five Okera lanterns by the hands of the Shinto priest. Each lantern comes with an 'Okera-gi', a piece of wood with a wish written on it. People bring the holy fire with the wishes back home by lighting a rope of twisted-bamboo.
The sight of the visitors returning home from Yasaka Shrine, spinning their rope to keep the fire alive is also a specialty of the Okera-mairi. Such a tradition today let's us see the continuation of ancient Japanese beliefs in the power of fire.
Higashi Honganji Temple Hakodate Branch located in Motomachi, Hakodate City, Hokkaido is a temple of the Otani denomination of Jyodoshinshu. The principal object of worship is the statue of Amida Nyorai. The temple originates in a small Amida hall built in Kokinai Village in 1641 by the priest Jogen. In the later era, the temple was relocated to Hakodate. In 1858, it changed its name to Honganji Temple Hakodate Gobo Jogenji by the order of the Tokugawa Shogunate, and then in 1876, it named itself Higashi Honganji Temple Hakodate Branch.
The original temple building was destroyed by the two fires, and the temple was moved to the present area in 1915, and it was rebuilt with ferroconcrete for fire prevention. It became the first ferroconcrete temple in Japan. Though looking like a wooden structure, the main hall has the concrete-made beams and pillars and its small roofs have reinforcing steel bars. The main gate, Nanmon Gate and wall fences are all made of ferroconcrete. The gently curving huge roof of the main hall is very beautiful.
Hanging ornaments such as these are known as 'tsurushi (hanging) kazari' or 'tsurushi hina'. These ornaments have been part of traditional culture since the Edo period, and the custom is rooted in the Izu-Inatori Onsen region. During the Hina (Girls) Festival, parents prayed for their daughter's happiness through a thread taken from a piece of old clothing. It is this hina hanging ornament that swings from both sides of the tiered stand used for the presentation of the hina dolls.
This custom is called 'sagemon' in Yanagawa, Kyushu, 'kasafuku' in Sakata, Yamagata, and 'hanging hina' in Izu-Inatori. Only these three districts have inherited this historical patrimony, documents and photos.
People entrust their wishes to the ornament. Some 110 ornaments have separate meanings. For example, the red eyes of a rabbit are supposed to have the power of causing and curing diseases. A rabbit is said to be the servant of a deity.
It is lots of fun to decorate with ornaments that suit each season. Your favorite small objects will colour your life and enrichen your heart.
Hakuto (White Rabbit) Shrine in Tottori City, Tottori Prefecture is a small shrine pertaining to the legend of the White Rabbit in Inaba. The legend has it that once upon a time, a rabbit, who was washed away to the sea by a flood, wished to go back to his hometown, Inaba. He deceived the sharks playing in the sea and almost succeeded in going back home, when he made a slip of the tongue and got all of his fur plucked out by the angry shark. When he was crying, Okuninushi no Mikoto passed by and told him how to cure his wounds. The enshrined deity at this shrine is this white rabbit, or Toyotamahime no Mikoto. The pond in the precinct is believed to be where the rabbit rinsed the seawater away from his body according to Okuninushi‘s advice.
The foundation time of the shrine is unknown but the present shrine building was built in 1896. Covered with the evergreen virgin forest of shii-trees, tabu-trees and ivy trees, the precinct has a mysterious atmosphere. The forest is a nationally designated Natural Monument as the primary forest where the plant life in the coastal area along the Sea of Japan has been well preserved.
Ochidani Shrine in Uemachi, Tottori City, Tottori Prefecture is a historic shrine. Walking up to the inner end of a narrow path off the main road, you will find a simple but distinguished-looking shrine building among fir and shii trees. The shrine was built in 1650 by the first lord of the Tottori domain, Ikeda Mitsunaka, to worship his grand-grand father, Tokugawa Ieyasu, thus it was called Toshogu or Tosho Daigongen in the Edo period (1603-1868). However, in the Meiji period (1868-1912) it was renamed to Ochidani Shrine according to the government’s policy of the separation of Shinto and Buddhism.
The solemn-looking Honden hall (the main hall) standing on white pebbled ground, the Chu-mon Gate in Hira-Karamon style (with bargeboards at each end), the Haiden hall (oratory), the Heiden hall (where offerings are presented to gods) are all nationally designated as Important Cultural Properties. The wood carvings of a hawk on the door of the Honden hall is said to be made by Hidari Jingoro, the master sculptor in the Edo period.
The Ochidani River flowing through the precinct is famous as the habitat of Japanese fireflies. After the sunset in early summer, the precinct turns into a fantasy.