つれづれの記

The 62nd Jingu Shikinen Sengu (Transfer Ceremony) I went to worship at the Kodai Jingu Sengu (Transfer Ceremony of the Primary Shrine)

October 2nd, the Naiku (Inner Shrine) of Ise Jingu Shrine

It’s after 4 PM, and I’ve finished signing in, checked my belongings, (belatedly) knotted my tie and am walking towards my seat. The sound of gravel underfoot seems restless because of the leather shoes that I don’t normally wear.

I’m just one of 3000 worshippers, and I was lucky to have my seat be in the very front. In front of me, a roof has been erected to create something of a corridor. It is probably a preparation in case of wet weather. The path has become the Holy Path by which the transfer will be made between the current shrine which has been used for 20 years, and the new shrine.

It’s 5:30, and we won’t be allowed to leave our seats after this. Not even for the toilet. We were so instructed.

The Togyo Ceremony, the actual ceremony where the god is transferred, will be held starting at 8. Until then, I can’t see anything, so don’t know what is happing. I just sit in my chair and do nothing for about 2 hours. I normally don’t get to spend my time like this.

Silence.
I am one of 3000 people sitting under the trees in the shrine’s forest.
The color of the sky darkens as the the day slowly fades.
The wind brings a refreshing coolness.
The insects chirp with good voices.
The voice of a deer resonates from afar.

With nothing to do, I stare straight in front of me at the low trees in the thick forest on the other side of the barrier created by the Holy Path.
I see faces.
I see different faces each time I look.
I find several faces in the trees of the dark forest. Depending on how you look, everything looks like a face. The stars are shining again.

The silence of 3000 people continues.
Just once, I hear the loud yawn of somebody behind me. I’m sure more than 200 people are silently chastising him in their hearts.

Some time around 7:40, the regular night candles and the lights along the path are put out.

Something has changed.
Everything outside the torchlight is black.
The people and the woods are black silhouettes. Beyond them, the indigo of the starry sky is brighter.

I realize I’m a little nervous.
Probably because the god will be traveling in front of me.
My heart beats a little faster as I realize that the a god that has protected my country for over 2000 years will be passing in front of my eyes and nose.
I look up at the sky once more to try to calm myself.

I’m afraid.
I’ve never had that feeling before when looking up at the stars in the sky.
The stars are different from just a moment ago. They look farther, bigger, colder, like they will leave us behind.
Like they exist as part of a larger affair that has nothing to do with us.
I am surprised by that, so I stare upwards for a while.

I lower my eyes.
The pitch black silhouette of the trees dims everything, but I am enveloped by a symmetrical warmth. I guess that the 3000 people sitting beside and behind me also feel the same warth. It probably feels something like the god. All because of the connection brought by the singular darkness and the complementary warth.

The Shinto priests have placed a long, continuous white cloth over matting which creates the Holy Path. The whiteness floats in the torchlight, as if on stage. No one, not even the Shinto priests tread on the path. They walk in parallel lines beside it, to create the path for the god.

The wind suddenly starts whistling above us.

The white cloth can’t conceal the godly presence that moves before me. I am moved. I am a modern Japanese person. My use of respectful language is suspect. Embarassing. Please laugh a bit and forgive me. I hear the sound of scattered claps. It feels like I’ve traveled into another era. After the god has passed before me, comes (court) musicians in a continuous line. What is passing before my eyes is timeless, the long, long history of Japan.

I regret that I was not able to more quickly realize the beauty and work of our ancestors before us. But I forgive myself as it is something that can never be learned too lage.

What I have received, I must pass on.
That is what each individual life is for.

The wind whistles loudly once again.
The leaves on the trees in the shrine’s forest are rustling together as one. Before long, word that the god has entered the new shrine is quietly passed along. The wind whistles, as though it is a sign.

I am unsure whether the fires of the torches can produce the warmth that I feel around me.

I gaze upwards at the sky, and the stars still look as though they are of another world, but they look softer now.

I feel enveloped by a faint, yet certain feeling of safety.

Takehiko Inoue

2013.10.04

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