Saturday, August 4, 2012

Misogi Shrine adventures

(This post was actually written two days ago, but I'm posting it now that I'm less jet-lagged.)


Hey, everyone!  It’s time for AIRPLANE BLOGGING.  I am slightly sleep deprived, so please forgive how incoherent/weird I may be.


Anyway, Misogi Shrine!  Sunday before last I walked down to Gosha Shrine to meet with Nakano-san and the Sekihara family (both parents and Yushin-kun) to begin our epic journey across Japan.  For those of you who aren’t intimately familiar with Japanese geography, Misogi Shrine is located in Yamanashi Prefecture, two prefectures and a three hour drive away from Nagoya.  This meant five of us in a car for three hours, driving through Nagano.  Needless to say, I heard of lot of exciting stories.  We wound up stopping for lunch at a rest stop, where I got some surprisingly good kara-age (fried chicken).


Being the brilliant person I am, I brought my camera…but managed to leave my camera card at home.  Great.  So I don’t have any pictures, which is a huge shame, because it was beautiful.


Misogi Shrine, by the way, is unaffiliated with Jinja Honcho (the Association of Shinto Shrines), which means it’s technically not part of “Shinto.”  Rather, it’s part of one of the 13 sects of “Sect Shinto,” which is the term used post-Meiji Restoration to designate “religious” Shinto as being separate from the “non-religious” Shinto used by the state.  Although the religious/non-religious distinction ended with the war, there’s still a difference between “Sect Shinto,” each sect of which is seen as a New Religion based on Shinto, and “regular” Shinto, which is governed by Jinja Honcho.


We were planning on attending a fire purification ceremony that was starting at 2 p.m., but we arrived at about 1:30, so we had some time to look around the shrine and drop into the shrine office.  The shrine grounds include a fully functional noh stage that overlooks a small pond—apparently there are sometimes concerts and performances on the stage during festivals.


Anyway, before the ceremony we wrote out wishes on little blocks of wood to be burned in the ceremony (although I think our particular blocks were burned in the next ceremony, not the one we attended).
The ceremony itself was pretty unlike anything I’ve ever observed before.  For one thing, fire purification ceremonies are incredibly rare in Shinto—they’re much more commonly performed in Buddhist temples.  Also, normally no one aside from the priests speaks during ceremonies, but everyone chanted together during this one.


After the ceremony, Nakano-san introduced me to a few of the priests, including her husband.  (Yeeeep, her husband works at Misogi Shrine.)  It was interesting talking to them, ‘cause the shrine technically doesn’t have ujiko (‘cause it’s Sect Shinto), so it’s an interesting contrast with the shrines I’ve been studying.


After that we hung around the grounds for a little bit, and chased dragonflies around. (Okay, Yushin-kun* and I chased dragonflies around.  The adults were too dignified to do such a thing, and also had cameras so they could take actual pictures.)


After we left, we stopped by a cheese store.  Apparently cheese is a big deal in Yamanashi?  They had AMAZING cheese cake (I tried a sample and nearly melted into a puddle of OH GOSH DELICIOUS all over the floor; I may be suffering from cheese cake deprivation) as well as…really odd cheese.  Like wasabi cheese.  And sausage cheese.  And regular cheese which was still kind of odd.  Of course, given that the majority of the cheese I have eaten in Japan was, in fact, filched** from Louki (DUTCH CHEESE IS DELICIOUS, OKAY***), I may be mildly biased.  But the cheese cake was amazing.  (Japanese cheese is weird, though, okay?)


Aaaand then we returned home!  The Sekiharas were nice enough to drive me back to my dorm, so I didn’t even need to walk back in the dark.  Thank you!


All in all, a pretty awesome trip!


*Can I take a moment to talk about what a trooper Yushin-kun was?  He is 6, and is potentially the best behaved kid I have ever met.  I mean, he dealt with being in a car for six hours better than many of the teenagers I know.  He gets ALL THE WELL-BEHAVED FIRST GRADER AWARDS.  (He is also adorable.  Just saying.)

**Well, filched with permission.

***In other news, I think Louki and Kim have officially broken my brain, ‘cause I have started mentally referring to things as “Dutch” when I actually mean they are orange.  WHAAAAAAAT.  WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO ME????

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