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The beauty of Japan’s Shintoism religion

WEDNESDAY LIFE
By Graham Kajilwa | June 22nd 2016
Faithfuls and tourists gathered around a pool at the Ise Jingu shrine to cleanse themselves by washing their hands and rinsing their mouths before proceeding to make prayers to goddess Omikami. (PHOTO: COURTESY)

Her beauty feels as warm and gentle as the morning sunshine. She has an embrace like that of a mother and her soft heart will melt your worries away, so they say.

Meet Amaterasu Omikami, the goddess of Japan who is loved beyond borders and whose gentleness is like that of Japan’s temperate weather — not so cold not so hot.

Omikami lives in a 5,500 metre square posh leafy suburban home called the Ise Jingu shrine in Ise Shima city of Japan with other 125 gods. Ise Jingu is the oldest of all Shinto shrines in Japan.

About 100 priests and 400 staff servants also keep her company just in case she needs anything.

Her house is replaced every twenty years with a new one which has been a tradition for over 1,000 years. The last replacement was made in 2013. “We do not change the designs but just build another similar one next to the old one,” says a priest Sato Otawa.

Otawa says another reason for replacing the house after every 20 years is to pass on the tradition to the younger generation.

This is important too since Omikami receives visitors almost daily with some coming from overseas just to say their prayers.

“We, however, do not allow visitors to come here at night since that is the time we conduct special rituals,” Otawa says.

At the entrance of her home, one has to bow at the main gate and in every other gate that they come across.

There is also a pool of water where cleansing is done by washing one’s hands and rinsing the mouth out.

The path to her main house is laced with small sea stone pebbles that are said to calm one’s heart and emotions before approaching her.

Apparently, Omikami eats a lot of sea food like lobsters and oysters and drinks plenty of Japanese rice wine famously known as ‘sake.’

Most of the sake she drinks is brought as offerings from farmers and brewers seeking her blessings.

Her food is, however, not prepared by just anyone : “A priest has to cleanse himself a day before his duty,” we are told.

When you approach her main house, you are not allowed to take photos. No commoner has ever seen Omikami and prayers are made at the entrance of her house.

Praying to Omikami is simple. All you do is bow twice, clap twice make a prayer and then bow once and you are done. It is this respect given to Omikami that every Japanese gives to each other no matter the age. Even the very old man will greet you, say thank you and honour your request with a bow.

Once you bid Omikami your goodbyes, you can take a stroll along Okage Yokocho street adjacent to the shrine and buy some antiques to remind you of her goodness reflected in the people of Japan.

Over 100 million people in Japan practice Shintoism meaning they believe in Omikami. Less than one pe cent of the population are Christians.

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