Encyclopedia of Shinto

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カテゴリー1: 5. Rites and Festivals
カテゴリー2: Individual Shrine Observances
In the past it was believed that ekishin, the kami of pestilence, were particularly active during the third month of the lunar calendar, the time when cherry blossoms scatter.
The gechinsai festival occurs on April 18 at Sai Shrine (Sai Jinja), the sessha (auxiliary shrine) of Ōmiwa Shrine in Sakurai City, Nara Prefecture. This festival is a chinkasai (ritual for the pacification of flowers, also hana shizume matsuri) and is believed to prevent epidemics.
There is a gechinsai in mid-April at Nagara Shrine (Ōtsu City, Shiga Prefecture). Cherry branches are presented before the altar, together with songs explaining that the blossoms are offered to the kami of the mountain (yama no kami) in place of ritual wands (nusa). At this time, the area in front of the shrine (shatō) is referred to as the "crossroads of blossoms" (hana no tsuji).
At Mizutani Shrine, the sessha of Kasuga Taisha (Kasugano Town, Nara Prefecture), cherry blossoms and a performance of Mizutani kyōgen are offered to the kami on April 5.
At Yasaka Shrine (Tawaramoto Town, Shiki District, Nara Prefecture), a ceremonial archery contest, also called a gechinsai, is held on the twentieth day of the first month of the lunar calendar. After the ritual service at the haiden, people gather in front of the targets, where they sit on straw dolls (representing the number of ujiko households) knocked over during the archery contest, while "ritual prayers for the pacification of blossoms" (gechin saimon) are being read. After this, three bamboo arrows are fitted to a plum-wood bow and shot at a metal votive lantern (tōrō). Then, the bow is thrown at the onlookers, who struggle to gain possession of it, since it is believed that getting the bow ensures the birth of a son.
A festival with the similar name of keichinsai is held at Kashima Shrine in Kashiba City, Kitakuzushiro District, Nara Prefecture, on January 16. The primary focus of the ritual is the tōya watashi in which gohei of sakaki and shiraki (unfinished wood) are moved from the shrine to the tōya's residence.
Another keichinsai, also known as the tsunakake matsuri, is held at Ten'ichi Shrine in Sakurai City, Nara Prefecture. On the fourth day of the first month of the lunar calendar, a ritual archery ceremony takes place, in which arrows are shot at a rope coiled in the shape of a snake. People parade the rope-snake on their shoulders and through the village, after which they take it from the town borders to Tsunakake Mountain, and then across the valley to Sengoku Mountain. This ritual is also believed to prevent epidemics.
In Kita Ward, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture, a festival known as yasurai hana is celebrated on April 2 at Imamiya Shrine. A procession of dancers, some carrying fūryū umbrellas decorated with cherry blossoms or camellias, others dressed as oni moves along to the accompaniment of a hayashi ensemble. The ritual is thought to pacify ekishin, the kami of pestilence.
— Mogi Sakae

Pronunciation in Japanese/用語音声

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