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Big Big Purification

The July 25th issue of Jinja Shinpō had a short article about an Ōōharaë, or possibly Daiōharaë (大大祓) ceremony at Takuhirëshi Jinja, in Toyama. This was performed on the flood plains around the Jinzū River, which runs just behind the jinja (and which has a name meaning “passing kami river”).

The ceremony is performed to give thanks for the blessings of nature, and the senior priest at the jinja, Revd Hayashi (who, I think, is the son of the chief priest) started doing it two years ago in response to the pandemic. The logic seems to be that the pandemic reminded him of the power of nature, and that he ought to give thanks for its blessings. He chose the location because he felt that it should be done somewhere that brought the priest into contact with nature. The river is also connected with the foundation legend of the jinja, and purification beside rivers has a long tradition in Shinto.

The reason for the two “ō”s in the name is that the ceremony is not addressed purely to the kami of his jinja, but also all the eight million kami. Thus, it is a bigger great purification.

The priest also performed a ceremony to pray for safe fishing along the river, because it is a popular fishing spot and there are, apparently, accidents every year. The ceremony happened on June 13th, which is just before the fishing season opens, and the priest was joined by a couple of fishermen who had come to check the ground. They were pleased that they had attended, because they would now be safe, and catch lots of fish.

This is a small ceremony, at a fairly small jinja, in a relatively obscure corner of Japan. (Be honest: had you heard of Toyama before reading this article?) So, why did it have a whole article in Jinja Shinpō? And, more to the point, why is this the fourth or fifth article about activities at this jinja? I have a very strong suspicion that the answer is that Revd Hayashi writes the articles, and sends them to the newspaper. He seems to be very active in developing his jinja, and even has a YouTube channel, where you can see a video of this very ceremony. (The sound isn’t great, but he is reciting the norito, so even most native speakers of Japanese would not be able to follow it.)

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