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Old 08-09-2010, 04:41 AM   #1
oisin bourke
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Dojo: Muden Juku, Ireland
Location: Kilkenny
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 359
Question about Shinto

In Japan, there is a coming of age ceremony for Japanese children called Shichi Go San ("seven five three"). Basically, boys and girls upon reaching those ages attend a Shinto Shrine and receive a blessing from the Kami. They dress up in Kimono and it's all very cute.

I attended this ceremony with my daughter last year.

The head priest calls out the names of all the children involved to the altar where the Kami resides. Then the assistant priests play flute music while one of the shrine Maidens (Miko) performs a ritual dance holding a fan and a bell. She "calls up" the Kami and then distributes the Kami's blessing (?) to the parents and kids.

I was stunned at how similar this dance was to Ueshiba Sensei's ritual purification rituals that can be seen on many films of him as an older man.

The pivoting around the center line of the body and the exquisite balance of the Miko was wonderful to watch ( the bell seems extremely heavy).

My question is:

Can only women perform this dance?

Does one need to be "purified" to perform this in front of the Kami, and is this dance in anyway related to Ueshiba's ritual?

I am looking for answers from people versed in Shinto.

Yoroshiku Onegaishimasu
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Old 08-09-2010, 11:29 AM   #2
mathewjgano's Avatar
Dojo: Tsubaki Kannagara Jinja Aikidojo; Himeji Shodokan Dojo
Location: Renton
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 2,237
Re: Question about Shinto

Oisin Bourke wrote: View Post

Can only women perform this dance?

Does one need to be "purified" to perform this in front of the Kami, and is this dance in anyway related to Ueshiba's ritual?

I am looking for answers from people versed in Shinto.

Yoroshiku Onegaishimasu
My guess is that the dance is supposed to be by a woman.
Purification seems to be a very big part of all Jinja Shinto rituals that I know of so I think the short answer to the second question is probably, yes. If that means a period of specialized purification training I couldn't say, but I suspect that's probably the case. Part of simply working in and around a shrine implies a higher degree of purity though, so I could also see how it might fall under the title of standard shrine duties for the more experienced Miko.
As for O Sensei's similar movements, I'd bet they stem from a similar influence. When our group visited Ise Jingu we received a similar dance, so it's not unlikely that O Sensei might have experienced similar in any number of visits he made to various shrines (so not just for Shichi Go San).
Hopefully Sensei Barrish will respond since he's certainly the best expert I know of. He's often pretty busy and I'm not sure how often he checks in on Aikiweb, so you might also try contacting him through his shrine's website: http://tsubakishrine.com

Last edited by mathewjgano : 08-09-2010 at 11:40 AM.

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Old 08-09-2010, 12:43 PM   #3
Rev.K. Barrish
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Dojo: Tsubaki Kannagara Jinja
Location: Granite Falls, WA
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 42
Re: Question about Shinto

Hello Mr. Oisin Bourke,

May I say congratulations re: your daughter attaining the pivotal age of 7 or 3.

The Kagura/ dance dedicated to the Kami you likely saw was Urayasu-no-mai. Kagura differs from Jinja to Jinja, but by far the one most often see is Urayasu-no-mai.

Kagura is almost always performed by Miko/ shrine maidens. Miko-san are young women who work at the shrine. Usual age is 18 to around 22-23. There are exceptions where Kannushi/Shinto priests do mai, but such cases are really rare. There are also times when Bugaku/ court dancing is offered for Okami’s enjoyment—Bugaku is often done by men—but most usual case is Urayasu-no-Mai offered by Miko-san (commonly called Miko-mai. Just a quick note: the kagura suzu /bells used by Miko and the similar Gokitoh suzu used by Kannushi are very light weight.

When O’Sensei offered Misogi no Jo or Ken it was as the kagura….a dance dedicated to Kami. He would use in the dojo setting as the harae or purification analogous to the Kannushi waving the O-nusa or Harae gushi/ wand of purification to clear an area of any obscuring or stagnant vibration—to purify the KI to open the space for fresh KI from divine nature/ Kami. In the case of his offering such movements in a Jinja setting which (which he also did) he would have received the Harae/ purification from the Kannushi as a part of the normal flow of events.

As to being purified before performing Mai in the case of the Miko, yes shrine professionals are purified at the beginning of each day in a ritual known as Chouhai/ morning prayer which involves the group prayer of Oharahi no kotoba/ great words of purification (which O’Sensei prayed each and every day as part of his personal practice) and the harae of Harae gushi.

So to speak to your question, Urayasu no Mai is offered by women or young girls…but it is also very common and natural for Budoka to offer gifts of their art to Okami..that is the origin and meaning of Enbu…

Interestingly enough the first archetypal Kagura was offered by Ame-no-Uzume-no-Mikoto who is the wife of Sarutahiko Okami who is ancestor Kami of Aikido. O’Sensei offered Misogi-no-ken movements to them in Mie Ken at Tsubaki Grand Shrine (where his mitama is enshrined).

Very best regards
K. Barrish
Senior Shinto Priest
Tsubaki Grand Shrine of America
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Old 08-10-2010, 07:09 PM   #4
oisin bourke
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Dojo: Muden Juku, Ireland
Location: Kilkenny
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 359
Re: Question about Shinto

Thank you very much for your replies.

I learned a great deal from them!

I've provided a link to the shrine that Ueshiba Sensei prayed at when he lived in Shirataki, Hokkaido.


This was where he first learned Daito Ryu while farming.

We visited there a few years ago due to its links to Daito Ryu and Aikido and we paid our respects. It's a very special place.

Thanks again
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