Sunday, October 16

晴明神社の秋分 - The Autumnal Equinox at Seimei Shrine, 23/09/2011

Here are some pictures of the celebrations carried at 晴明神社, Seimei shrine during the Autumnal Equinox, which is a national holiday in Japan. I'm really sorry the quality is not better, but I don't have a professional camera, and in order to see the best part of the celebrations I had to postpone my visit till the late afternoon. (And as a newly-formed photographer with not much experience in the field, I reluctantly had to admit that the proper light is very important in photography...)

(Reluctantly, because it means that in these quickly disappearing days that are not enhanced with the daylight saving time (the Japanese simply don't play in that game of turning clocks forward or backward; to be honest - I understand them very well, I never know which way to change it anyway), I would need to at least CONSIDER getting up earlier... <sigh>)

Paper lanterns with names. Seimei Jinja, 23/09/2011.
The fair following every festival or event at any shrine or temple. There is everything here, from Disney princess' balloons, plastic manga toys, caramelised fruits and vegetables, grilled fish and meat, to games for every possible device and platform one can think of.

Young monk preparing for the celebrations; viewed from behind the rack where people tie up the bad 御神籤 (omikuji), fortunes that they had tossed, hoping that the bad luck stays in the shrine instead of following them.

Assistant moving a tree with the mask of an 鬼 (oni), demon. Demons seem to be an essential part of this shrine's history. I haven't yet figured out why though.

The group of children in period clothes after paying a group tribute to the main kami. 

Two Japanese young women wearing autumn-inspired kimono and obi sets, marking the change of season; in the background - leaders of children processions in period clothes.

View of the so-called 'guest kami dwelling', much smaller than the 本殿 (honden), the sanctuary of the main kami. The red sign on the bell rope reads 奉納(hoonoo), dedication/offering.

View of the kami dwelling through 絵馬 (ema), the wooden plaques bought at the shrine where one can put their wishes/ dreams/ thanks to the kami. To ensure privacy, some of them had post-its stuck on top of the text to make them impossible to read by incidental on-lookers.

絵馬 (ema) rack

Paper lantern in front of the kami dwelling.

The sign reads ’The Misfortune-Cleaning Peach’. I followed the example of the people and treated it with utmost respect, caressing and then bowing. The grateful bows and approving looks of the Japanese queued behind me- priceless.

The sacred tree of the shrine. If I understood correctly,  was planted over 300 years ago!

The Autumn Girls. It was the first time that I encountered the situation when I was speaking in Japanese, but got responded in English. I found that pretty rude, but before I came to Japan I read that it is at some point unavoidable, as Japanese want to 'practice their conversation skills'. To be honest, it was the one and only time so far.

Very vigorous お神輿 (omikoshi) when the crowd of men dressed in special festival clothes with the emblem of the shrine presents the portable shrine to the main kami three times before it is placed on the ground for the sacred rituals.

The portable shrine in its full glory.

View of the shrine in the lights of the dying day.

The 本殿 of the main kami, the deified Abe-no Seimei (depicted in the stone on the left).   

The queue of people wanting to pay tribute to the main kami.

Two Japanese girls in 浴衣 (yukata), summer kimono, playing next to the sacred tree.

This is a... rubbish bin. But a special one. This is the place for the old charms, ofude (straps of paper with protective characters/spells written on them), darumas and fortunes, so that they can be burned in a sacred atmosphere of the shrine, and their power is properly destroyed. I knew that you were supposed to give these back, I just always wondered how! Now I know!

If you're interested in the shrine, you can visit their webpage: Describing this webpage as an interactive is an understatement - it's hyper(inter)active! In the nutshell - you can clearly see how well the shrine is doing financially, as the webpage is first-class. (Just compare it to the poor Matsunoo Taisha's... The big plus for Matsunoo is that it has an English sub-page, though.) 

My personal favourite is this sub-page: You can even see little films featuring miko, the shrine maidens, explain the shrine objects with their history and meaning! They are pretty complicated though, I wish I could understand all of them...  

But soon, I hope!

Oh, and I would forget - if you can read Japanese, how about reading a manga presenting the story of the shrine? You can find it here. Level: upper-intermediate/ advanced.


  1. Very nice pictures! Do You already have Your own yukata? But I must say one thing - this peach statue or something...looks a bit like a big shiny...butt :P I'm sorry, but I couldn't help noticing! Kisses :*

  2. I want that lantern! :)
    Very nice pictures:)