With ?? (Shinto), one of the religions in Japan, nature is considered sacred (though you’d never guess it by looking at all the concrete here) and whenever anything is done that “disrupts” nature: the cutting down of trees to make way for new buildings, tunnelling through mountains, there are some rituals that must be performed.

As we are cutting down a few trees to make way for a new house in a few weeks time a ??? (dichinsai) or ceremony was performed by a ?? (kannushi) Shinto Priestess. A make-shift outdoor cover was erected and beneath it a Shinto shrine in the centre of the garden.

Everybody stood facing the shrine with the Priestess in front also facing the shrine. Since we were going to be disturbing nature she then proceeded to pray to the Shinto God(s) to be calm – not sure which Gods were prayed to, next she mentioned whose land it was and then proceeded to read out the names of the Shinto Gods.

By now the ceremony had been going for about 15 minutes, next, in turns, we were given a ? (Sakaki) or Sacred Tree, which was basically just a branch with leaves. We were given the branch with the end that had been cut facing towards us, we then approached the shrine, rotated the branch 180 degrees clockwise, placed it on the shrine, bowed twice, clapped twice, bowed once more and stepped back.

When the ?? (Jicho) or Deputy Manager from the company who was going to be doing the building placed the Sakaki on the Shrine and clapped after bowing his subordinates who were there with him all clapped at EXACTLY the same time. They may have been down the back but boy were they paying attention.

After that everyone stood in a half circle around the Shrine and was given a small saucer. The Priestess then walked around the inside of the circle and poured everyone a small amount of Sake, everyone said Kampai – and drank.

It was pointed out to me that there was some food on the Shrine, food from the ocean – squid, food from the trees – apples and oranges and food from the ground – radishes. This food was offered to appease any Gods who may be angry at us for upsetting nature.

The ceremony then concluded.

All in all it was an interesting experience and one (IMO) that you wouldn’t normally see while in Japan on a holiday.

— David

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