Names in this site follow the Japanese custom of family name first.

July 13, 2009

Japanese Customs: Summer cleansing of the spirit

Nagoshi no Harae refers to the "great purification" (oharae) that used to be performed on the last day of the sixth month of the lunar calendar. This goes back to a custom at the imperial court, but it in later ages it became especially popular among Kyoto's townspeople.

[Chinowa in the Fujinomori Shrine, Kyoto]

For this rite, large rings made of miscanthus reed (chinowa) are set up in the grounds of shrines. By passing through the reed gate (the summer ring) worshipers are purified and get rid of any defilement (kegare). Thus they are protected from misfortune. The custom also existed of passing the defilement on to a paper or straw puppet and throwing this away in a river or the sea.

The rite was originally also held at the end of December, but that one has been given up long ago, perhaps because there are already other purification ceremonies at the New Year. In contrast, the Nagoshi no Harae that is held in summer has become bigger and nowadays most shrines put up the chinowa for the whole month of June.