Saturday, August 23, 2008

Twenty years of visiting Ise - Part 4

After visiting the Gegū, looking at Asama-yama (Mt.Asama) on the right, which is one of the passing points of the sun, we drove the winding highway towards Izawa-no-miya. As we come close to the town, Isobe-cho, we started to see some stores lining on the right side of the road. As we drove down the hill, we saw two police cars stopping a car for speeding on the opposite side of the road. I felt sorry for the policemen to be working even on the Obon holidays. I told my family to remind me on the way back for not speeding.

Izawa-no-miya had expanded their parking lot since last year. The shin-den (rice field at a shrine), where the Otaue-shiki* is held, now had a roof in the area for the visitors to watch the ceremony. When I first visited the Izawa-no-miya twenty years ago on my bike lead by my god spirit guides, they didn’t even have a parking lot. I am happy to see the development happening every year and at the same time, reminisce about the modest looking old days. Even the eel restaurant, just before the main gate to the shrine, looks like they have renewed their signboard. Back then, it looked so shabby, it was hard to tell whether they were open or not.

We went through the Torri archway, cleansed our mouth and hands with the provided water and slowly walked toward the shrine. To me, the approach (san-do・参道) toward Izawa-no-miya always feels like a transbirth canal (san-do・産道). It feels like returning back to a mother’s stomach from the lower world. The main shrine would be the womb. When I send my blessing at the shrine, the nichirin (the circle of light) of Amaterasu-Ohomikami appeared in my mind as always. The calm and gently vibrational energy signified that nothing critical is going on.

For the God Spirit who resides at this shrine, this major turning point of time is just another phase, and it seems like serenely observing the eternal flow of time. Mother of earth is for sure a Big Mama with a steady nerve.

After visiting the Izawa-no-miya, we went to a French restaurant outside the main entrance of Gegū. Because it has been one and a half year since our last visit to Ise Shrine and spending time with my family, so I decided to give them a treat. We had a lunch menu that was 3500 yen each. Too bad I (the driver) couldn’t have a drink. [laugh] As we were leaving the restaurant, when I was at the cashier, I found a photograph on the wall. It was a photo of the Dai-Torii grand archway. The lower part of the photo showed a clear rainbow color orb. I thought it was very unusual to see a shot so clearly close to the ground.

Leaving our car at the parking lot of Gegū, we took the bus to go to Naigū (the inner shrine). On the way from Izawa-ni-miya to Gegū, we had seen how crowded Naigū is and we knew we didn't want to drive in there. (continue)

Ikashite-itadaite Arigato-gozaimasu

Thank you for letting us live

[Otaue-shiki - 御田植式 : Rice planting ceremony held at rice-planting time in May or June in all parts of Japan to pray for a good rice crop and successful harvest.]

Friday, August 22, 2008

Twenty years of visiting Ise - Part 3

I would like to talk about my impression of this time’s visit to the Gegū. As I pay a visit at the main shrine (honden), I sensed the vibration of a deity from behind the oratory. This vibrational energy was the same sensation I had always felt at this place.

At a shrine where god resides and when the god is present at that time, its spirit body emits an exquisite vibrational energy. When there is some kind of problem or conversely, in a high joyous state, the vibration becomes bigger and rough. Last year, the vibration was very big. When it is in that state, I could hear a sound like a bee flying. The sound cannot quite be explained in words. Kaminari 雷 means thunder. Kami means god. Nari or naru means make a sound. This might be the derivation of the word for thunder.

In the ancient times, people sensed this vibrational energy of the deity. When they sensed the anger, they made efforts to improve and when they sensed the joy, the whole village celebrated the joy together.

This time the vibrational energy was stable. All shrines at the Gegū were stable except for one, the Kaze-no-miya (the wind shrine). Up until last year, it was stable. This year, it has started to make a sound.

Some incidents at the Kaze-no-miya are recorded in the priest diary of Gegū. At a critical time when foreigners tried to invade Japan, the day before the attack, smoke rose from Kaze-no-miya and the billowing smoke flew off to the direction toward the invader. At another time in 1959 when typhoon stroke the Ise Bay, while Ise city had devastating damage, all the main shrine were left undamaged, in spite of the straw-thatched roofs. But only the Kaze-no-miya was totally crashed by a fallen tree, as if it had saved all the lives of the others at the sacrifice of its own.

The name of the deity who resides at Kaze-no-miya is Ibukidonushi-Ōkami. It is one of The Four Deities under Susanoo that teams up to work on missions. I sincerely hope that this first runner deity does not have to sacrifice again. If the majority of the people who are living on this land of Japan become consciously aware of the sense of gratitude to what they already have, the deity of the Wind Shrine will not have to make its move and instead settle down. (continue)

Ikashite-itadaite Arigato-gozaimasu

Thank you for letting us live

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Twenty years of visiting Ise - Part 2

At the shrine office of Gegū, we applied to receive the Daidai Kagura ceremony. On the application, you write one person’s name to represent your group and the number of total attendance. Then you choose what kind of prayer you want. I chose the “gratitude sending to the gods”. Next time, I want to do it for “the security of the Japanese nation.”

This time, we came together with my own sister’s family. I sat down at the waiting lounge, thinking that this will be a good cultural education for our children. Maybe because it was early in the morning, there was no one else waiting. The waiting lounge was spacious, very clean and free drinks were prepared. The bathroom was very clean too. We waited for about 20 minutes and a priest came to lead us to the inner shrine.

After a brief prayer chanted by a priest, two kami-miko, shrine maiden, held a ceremony to offer shin-fuda (a charm that represents a God) and shin-sen (food offerings – dried bonito, squid and tangle). This was marvelous. One of the kami-miko brought the food offerings to the entrance of the oratory. The other kami-miko receives the offerings and places it to the altar. The kami-miko goes back and forth few times in front of the attendance and the two miko’s timing is so perfect to the details. When the kami-miko comes to the center of the oratory, she would once slightly bend her knees before she continues to walk toward the entrance. This feels like she is expressing greetings to the attendance and at the same time, giving a sign to the other maiden to match the timing of their movement. Throughout the ceremony, these two kami-miko impressed me the most. I had witnessed god spirits behind these maidens who are probably still under 20 years old. There were higher rank priests around them but the god spirits only resided around the two maidens. I sometimes see kami-miko’s of today, who are not so pure and having fun in their private lives. But these kami-miko’s at The Grand Shrine of Ise are keeping themselves very pure. I sense they do not have much of a private life. They are true virgins who god spirits reside.

This time, I learned one more thing. It was the prayer chanted by an upper rank priest before the Kagura, offering dance. I had never heard of this chant before. It was chanted very slowly in a soft gentle manner like talking a story. The unique vocalization emanated the gentle energy of The Grand Shrine of Ise.

If you would like to offer a prayer, the basic Okagura (15,000yen) is sufficient. It was very expensive for us, but receiving a special charm to bring home, and the whole ceremony with fresh local food offerings was totally worth it.

The received charm did not fit into my altar at home. So I added a wooden holder for the charm attached to the left side of the altar. Even if you don’t have an altar at home, this charm is very thick, so it will stand on its own. If you can, please offer sakaki leaves and water. The energy from the god spirits will then be able to reside. If you cannot use sakaki leaves, at least, offer a bowl of water and change it once in a while.

Ikashite-itadaite Arigato-gozaimasu

Thank you for letting us live

Monday, August 18, 2008

Twenty years of visiting Ise - part 1

Around end of June, a thought came to my mind to visit The Grand Shrine of Ise on August 15th. As a “salary man” and a salesman, holidays without getting emergency calls from clients are limited. In addition, taking a trip with all the family members will be costly and we cannot afford to visit so often. My favorite person, Munetada Kurozumi (1780-1850) visited the shrine in Ise six times during his life. This is amazing. In those days, there were no public access or cars. He had to walk for days or weeks. Sickness, accident, robbery… many possible obstacles are on the way. Actual records of his loan application for the trip still exist. In those days, visiting the The Grand Shrine of Ise was once in a lifetime dream for the commoners. In order to pay a visit to the shrine, people made stops on the way in towns to find work until they had enough money to reach the destination. People who could not visit the shrine for some reason, asked the visitors to take their dog instead. I wonder how many of the dogs actually made it back. If there was, I believe that dog is a true Komainu ( a dog like creature that protects the shrine).

On August 15th, we got up at 3 am and drove off looking at Hakusan (Mt. Haku) from a distance. We took the new Meishin Highway for the first time. It was a really nice and clean new highway. I was surprised to notice the area between Shigaraki, Kouka and Kameyama, full of the vibrational energy of Ise-Hakusan line. It seems like this highway was made in the middle of the untouched wild nature. There are no other place receiving such restorative energy from the universe. Kameyama is where the world known liquid crystal screen was invented and produced. I sense that this is not a coincidence. A place with such good vibrational energy will be the best place to come up with great new ideas. A delicate work such as equal allotment of the liquid crystals may be affected by the energy of the area. No wonder the brand name made in Kameyama has a high reputation.

After several restroom breaks, we reached The Grand Shrine of Ise around 8:30 am. After visiting the main shrine of Gegū, we visited all the other shrines both in Gegū(outer shrine) and Naigū(inner shrine). Then we asked for a formal gratitude sending prayer done by the priest called Daidai Kagura, at Gegū Kaguraden.

Ikashite-itadaite Arigato-gozaimasu

Thank you for letting us live