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
Okayu shinji
"Rice-gruel rites." Rites for divining the year's fortune (toshiura) in which rice gruel is used are performed all over Japan during koshōgatsu (the "lesser" New Year) around January 15.
At Kamooya Shrine in Sakyō Ward, Kyoto, a rite takes place on January 15 in which adzuki-bean rice gruel is cooked up and the red and white food then presented at the altaras a prayer for an abundant harvest.
In a rite held the same day at Izanagi Shrine in Ichinomiya Township, Tsuna District, Hyōgo Prefecture, three sections of the bamboo used to demarcate taboo boundaries (imidake) are stuck into a pot in which rice gruel is cooked up. The year's harvest is divined from how the gruel pours out of the bamboo.
In the "tube gruel rite" (tsutsugayu shinji) of Mitsumine Shrine in Ōtaki Village, Chichibu District, Saitama Prefecture, held January 15, thirty-six pieces of reed (Phragmites communis) each several centimeters long are bound together with string and put into a pot in which adzuki-bean gruel is then cooked. The year's harvest is divined by the volume of adzuki beans and gruel in the reed tubes.
The Utsue festival at Itakizo Shrine in Wakayama City, Wakayama Prefecture held the same day also includes a toshiura rite in which the year's crop harvest is divined using rice gruel.
In the rice gruel festival (okayu matsuri) held at Chiriku Hachimangū in Kitashigeyasu Township, Miyaki District, Saga Prefecture, participants examine the condition of the mold that has grown on the surface of rice gruel made and set aside as much as ten days prior. By this means they divine the harvest yield of the four Chikuhi provinces: Chikuzen (present-day northern Fukuoka prefecture), Chikugo (southern Fukuoka prefecture), Hizen (Saga prefecture and part of Nagasaki prefecture), and Higo (Kumamoto prefecture). The direction in which the five-colored mold develops indicates which region will have an abundant yield. The festival is also known as the "rite of testing the rice gruel" (okayudameshi shinji). The same sort of rice gruel festival takes place that same day at Akiba Shrine in Tosu City, and at Shiga Shrine and Ryūō Shrine in Kawazoe Township, all in Saga Prefecture.
At Hiraoka Shrine in Higashi-Ōsaka City, Ōsaka Prefecture, there is a rice-gruel divination rite on the 15th in which the size of the harvest yield is divined from how much rice gets into a bamboo tube stuck into a pot of boiled adzuki-bean rice. In addition, the weather for the year is also divined by burning twelve evergreen oaks.
A celebration known as the Kanda festival is held January 1–3 in advance of the rice-gruel divination rite held the 15th at Awa Shrine in Tateyama City, Chiba Prefecture. The cooked white rice offered up before the altar is dried out and ground into a powder in a stone mortar. It is transferred to a pot on the 14th, along with 12 lengths of reed about 15 centimeters long, and the mixture is cooked into rice gruel. Twelve charred coals are taken from the fire during the cooking and placed in a row on firewood. These are likened to the twelve months of the year and foretell what the weather will be like in each. This is referred to as the "placing coals rite" (okizumi shinji). Then on the 15 during the rice-gruel divination (kayu'ura) ceremony the pot is heated and presented before the altar. After its removal the reeds are split and the harvest yield is divined according to how the rice gruel in the stalks has permeated them
A rice-gruel divination and coal-placement rite (kayu'ura sumioki shinji) is held January 16 at Iyahiko Shrine in Yahiko Village, Nishikanbara District, Niigata Prefecture. A tub with cooked gruel in it and into which twelve stalks of sedge have then been inserted is removed early on the morning of the 16th from before the altar where it was placed as an offering. The volume of the crop harvest is divined based on the amount of gruel that has gotten into the stalks, one of the most common such methods of divination. The rite overlaps with a coal-placing ritual, like at the previously-mentioned Awa Shrine. Twelve red-hot coals, about six centimeters in size, are put in earthenware and lined up around the pot of gruel. The weather of each month is forecast by how the coals, which each stand in for one month, burn. A coal completely burned on the outside means clear weather, one that is still essentially coal means rain, and one that scatters as ash means wind. Also, examining the rice gruel in the tub, it is believed that the year will be better if the surface is hard without moisture, and worse if it has moisture or cracks.
As this shows, there are many crop divinations performed around koshōgatsu using rice-gruel. Many of these determine the outcome by how the gruel has gotten into reed or sedge stems, or by the state of mold growth.
— Mogi Sakae

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