飾り樽 Kazaridaru – Sake barrels at Shinto shrines

Visit any Shinto shrine in Japan and you’ll notice barrels of rice wine on display. These wooden sake barrels known as sakedaru (酒樽) wrapped in straw blankets are stacked and bounded together by rope on a wooden frame.

The decoration of barrels known as kazaridaru signifies a spiritual connection and relationship between brewers and shrines for prosperity. Most brewers donate these sake barrels to shrines for Shinto ceremonies, rituals and festivals. Japanese believe that sake acts as a symbolic unification of Gods and people.

The origin of sake in Japan dates back to around 300 BC as the drink of the Gods. Polished rice is washed and cleaned before steamed. Yeast is later added onto the rice and allowed to ferment. The fermentation process is continued with series of incubation, heating and cooling before alcohol is produced. Traditional sake brewing is no longer in practice as production process has improved to increase yield and reduce brewing time. Today, there are over 1,500 sake manufactures in Japan.

In some of Japans oldest texts the word used for sake is miki (神酒),written with the characters for ‘god’ and ‘wine.’ People would go to a shrine festival and be given rice wine to drink, and they would feel happy and closer to the gods.”

These days, the word o-miki (お神酒) is reserved for rice wine used in Shinto rites and festivals. Sipping a cup is still a prayerful act of symbolic unification with the gods. Shinto shrines and sake manufacturers maintain a symbiotic relationship, in which the shrines conduct rites to ask the gods for the prosperity of the brewers, and — this is where the barrels come in — the brewers donate the sake that shrines need for ceremonies and festivals.

Smaller shrines usually get their o-miki from local sake companies, but two shrines, Meiji Jingu in Tokyo and Ise Jingu in Mie Prefecture, look after the entire national product by accepting donations from every rice-wine brewer in the country. There are about 1,800 sake manufacturers in Japan.

Rice wine is not normally stored in barrels because it picks up too much of the taste and smell of the wood. But a short stay gives the sake a pleasant woody aroma, so upon request brewers fill barrels (from a steel tank) a few days in advance of festivals and other special occasions.

One of those sake barrels, which are called komodaru (薦樽). (Komo is the woven straw wrapped around the staves.) holds four to (斗) (an old measure), or 72 liters (a standard komodaru).

Generally, a brewer provides just one bottle, or an empty barrel for display. The kimochi (気持ち) (gesture) is important, because asking for or giving more sake than is actually needed would be mottainai (勿体無い) (wasteful).

This strikes me as an example of traditional Japanese values: Shinto gods don’t make unreasonable demands of people, and people show respect for the natural world inhabited by Shinto gods by avoiding waste.

12年09月04日 靖国神社

12年09月04日 靖国神社

12年09月04日 靖国神社

12年09月04日 靖国神社

12年09月16日 明治神宮

12年09月16日 明治神宮

12年09月16日 明治神宮

12年09月16日 明治神宮

12年09月16日 明治神宮

12年09月16日 明治神宮

12年09月16日 明治神宮

12年09月16日 明治神宮

飾り樽 Kazaridaru

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Learning Japanese in Context: temizu 手水

Temizuya  手水舎 inAsakusa Shrine 浅草神社

Temizuya  手水舎 inAsakusa Shrine 浅草神社

Temizu  手水

Temizu  手水

From this article on there will be contributions for the Japanese learning community.

According to my experiences the most effective way to learn and improve your language skills is to use practical and contextual topics in both oral and written situations.

When it comes to written material the dedicated japanese learner is surrounded with a multitude of written boards, plates, signposts, commercials e.t.c.

Happily one expression or Kanji is recognized, but mostly time and schedule doesn’t allow to decipher a somewhat longer text line.

Yet, why not take 5 or 10 minutes trying to come closer to a japanese text.

Armed with a smartphone app, a pocket dictionary and the courage to ask a native speaker can be a rewarding challenge and can be fun as well.

I am convinced this way the learning outcome will turn out more profitable than learning vocabulary in an isolated manner.

Today I chose an instruction table I saw inside a Shinto shrine instructing the visitor step by step with easy sentences and illustrations how to perform a symbolic cleansing called TEMIZU 手水.This purification is considered indispensable before visiting the sacred area and signifies the removal of evil and pollution. Every shrine provides an area in form of a pavilion called temizuya or hōzuya 手水舎 for the ritual.

In the following text I underlined the Kanjis and wrote the whole sentence in Hiragana.

Please, note well, temizu instructions vary between shrines.

The photos were taken at Asakusa Shrine浅草神社 Asakusa-jinja in September 2012

手水方法

てみずほうほう

Water and Washing of Hands Method (Purification before praying to the deities)

さまにおりするときは

かみさまにおまいりするときは

When worshipping the deities

(からだ)をきれいにしましょう

こころからだをきれいにしましょう

let us clean heart and body

一、まずひしゃくで左手に水をかせます。

いち、まずひしゃくてでひだりてに水をかせます。

1. First pour water on the left hand using a dipper

二、つぎに右手に水をかけます

に、つぎにみぎてに水をかけます

2. next, pour water on the right hand

三、左手をためてにふくんですすきます

水をすときはでかくしてね!

三、ひだりてにみずをためてくちにふくんですすきます

水をすときはでかくしてね!

  1. collect water on your left hand and rinse your mouth.Hide it with your hand when you let the water out. (remark: quietly spit the water out into your cupped left hand, not in the reservoir)

けた左手をもう一度洗います

とんくちけたひだりてをもういちどあらいます

4. Wash the left hand which was held on the mouth once more.

最後ったで、自分ったひしゃくのえをいます

さいごのこったみずで、じぶんったひしゃくのえをあらいます

5.At last, cleanse the dipper handle with the leftover water.

この作法では つぎの気持ちよく 手水れるようにづかいが大切です

このさほうでは つぎのひときもちよく てみずれるように こころづかいがいせつです

In this etiquette It is important being thoughtful in a manner that the next person will feel comfortable while performing the purification