A Shinto ritual at Kamo Shrine "Oikemono"
A Shinto ritual "Oikemeno" was held at Kamo Shrine in Kamo district of Obama City on February 23rd 2016. It was Tuesday. This ritual is always supposed to hold on January 16th of the lunar calendar, so the date keeps changing every year no matter what day it is.
Oikemono is a very rare Shinto ritual. It is a divination of crop prospects for the year, which is by putting some seeds into a wooden box and checking how the seeds have germinated digging up a year later.("Oikemono" means "things to bury".)
They use seven kinds of seeds to bury which are acorns, sweet acorns, Dioscorea, chestnuts, ginkgo nuts, Japanese nutmegs and dried persimmons.
I think that all of these seeds used to be valuable foods which people could get in everyday life in ancient times. From this point, I feel the origin of Japanese people's daily lives and belief. And it's no wonder because its origin goes back to 1,000 years ago (Heian Period) and has been continued until now.
At ten in the morning, the ritual starts. They started putting these seeds into a wooden box called "Mainobako" (Maino means burying, and bako means box) with flat oval-shaped rice cakes called "Ushi-no-shita" (Ushi means cow and shita means tongue).
They leave the shrine office and worship at the main shrine. The person in charge of the ritual this year taps the ritual wand.
On their way from the main hall to Kaminomiya, arrow shooting is performed. They hit a straw mat target imaging a big snake. Arrow shooting is performed again after worship at Kaminomiya.
After worship at Kaminomiya, they shared sacred sake and food such as dried squid. And also, they scattered small pieces of rice cake for visitors shouting "Hyakumangoku!" (a million bushels).
Kaminomiya is an old-style shrine which has no shrine sanctuary, and the stone fence shows a sacred boundary.
The last year's maino bako is dug out from the root of a sacred tree. After that, the new box was buried into the same place.
And the judgement messenger forcefully announced the result to people gathered at the shrine office. Thus, the ritual lasted for two hours ends. By the way, the result was that they would have a good crop again this year.