Fortune Telling

Fortune telling is big business in Japan and one only needs to visit a Shinto shrine to find out how many people desire a purported peek at their futures. Omikuji are little paper fortunes that can be purchased for a token fee. The fortunes are general, but can be anything from lucky to a major curse….

Tohoku Week – Shiogama Jinja

Topping a small hill overlooking Shiogama town in Miyagi Prefecture, this fairly large shrine complex has a history of over 1,000 years, surviving earthquakes, fires and tsunamis. It can be included as part of an itinerary containing the Shiogama and Matsushima towns and is well worth a long stroll around the picturesque buildings, pine forests…

Sanno Matsuri Parade

Sanno Matsuri is  one of the three major festivals of Tokyo, but don’t expect the millions of spectators that festivals like Sanja Matsuri have. What Sanno Matsuri lacks in attendance it makes up for in stature; it is one of the few festivals that is attended by the Emperor…sort of. In truth, the festival comes…

Setsubun

Setsubun is a festival celebrating the beginning of Spring and is observed on February 3rd in Japan. The festival is based on the Lunar calendar and Setsubun is considered to be a type of “new year” festivity and focuses on welcoming “good luck” while getting rid of “bad luck”. Setsubun is neither wholly Buddhist or…

Kitsune

The fox spirit, Kitsune, is a mythical creature of Japanese folklore. Kitsune differs from the fox statues found at Shinto shrines which are Inari, a type of spirit revered in Shintoism, though over the centuries, the differentiation has become blurred. When a man dressed as a white Kitsune appears at a festival like this one, he…

Shinto Wedding

Witnessing a wedding procession through a Shinto shrine is a grand and colorful affair, a parade of beautiful traditional costumes and relatives in fine suits and kimono. Seeing such an event taking place in an ancient shrine would make you believe you are witnessing a custom dating back centuries, even a millennium. But you’d be…

Miko

Miko are young girls working at Shinto shrines, usually in menial positions selling charms or cleaning the grounds. They are easily recognizable by their white haori jacket, red hakama pants and ribbons in their hair. The modern miko is likely just a university student working a part-time job, but historically, miko were much more involved in…