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Mekari-shinji

Play time
4:04

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The traditional ritual of Mekari Shrine, found at the most northerly location in Kyushu facing the Kanmon Straits. 
With 3-meter long torches in their hands, the Shinto priests wonder into the freezing waters in order to harvest the symbol of fortune, seaweed.
Designated as Intangible Folk Cultural Property of Fukuoka Prefecture.
Location: Moji, Moji Ward, Kitakyushu City
Date: January 1st of the lunisolar calendar
Prefectural official title: Mekari-shinji 

Mekari-shinji

Mekari-shinjiの画像

The Kanmon Straits connecting Kyushu and Honshu. . .
is home to Mekari Shrine sitting in the most northerly location in Kyushu.
With over 1800 years of history, its enshrining deity is of. . .
sea safety,
travel/transportation,
and others.
This particular day is the New Year's Day on the Chinese calendar,
the final day of the Mekari Shrine calendar.
The calendar begins on the day of the winter solstice,
then follows torch making on December 1st of the lunisolar calendar.
Purifying Shinto priesthood duty of Shinshoku has 
always started one week prior to the end of their year.

The Sanctuary

The Sanctuaryの画像

2:30 am, past midnight,
while the tidal wave is at the lowest point. . .
3 Shinto priests receive the torch,
the bucket, and the sickle.
They light the 3-meter torch,
which will be their guide, and
begin walking into the cold, wintery ocean.
Before the world war II, this ritual was undisclosed.
In order to rejuvenate the nation, one of the former priests
decided to make it open to the public.
Seaweed surfaces due to the low tide. . .
They would carefully harvest it with the sickle.
These wakame grow without any human hands,
thus considered a sign of fortune.

Offering to the Deity

Offering to the Deityの画像

As they offer the harvested seaweed to the deity,
they would pray for safety and abundance at sea for the upcoming year.
These offerings often made their way to the imperial court and local lords in the past.
Such is the Shinto tradition of Mekari-shinji - existing since the establishment
and the 2 month-long ritual of the Shrine -
solemnly coming to an end.

Map

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