Sōmen are a popular type of wheat noodle in Japan — thin, and normally eaten cold in the summer. A particularly well-known type of sōmen is Miwa Sōmen, which is associated with Ōmiwa Jinja in Nara Prefecture. Indeed, the noodles are said to have been invented centuries ago by a priest of the jinja based on inspiration from the kami. Every year, the manufacturers’ association comes to Ōmiwa Jinja to have a divination ceremony performed, at which the kami determines whether the price of the noodles will be low, medium, or high for that year.
This year’s ceremony was reported in the March 6th issue of Jinja Shinpō. The result of the divination was that the price would be low, and the article notes that the wholesale price of the noodles will therefore be set at the low end this year. The head of the association made an interesting comment, as follows.
“As the prices of wheat and other ingredients are very high at the moment, we would like to deeply consider the will of the kami, and gird ourselves for the struggle. In this state of the world, we will properly pass this traditional industry on, and work hard to provide consumers with delicious sōmen.”
The first thing to note is that this divination is not a prophecy, other than the self-fulfilling kind. The purpose of the divination is to get instructions from the kami. What is more, the manufacturers seem to want to act on those instructions, even when they say that the price should be low during the highest inflation in Japan for forty years.
Some people, at least, still take Shinto oracles quite seriously.