Two Shrines

Anh Nguyen
January 31, 2014

I said in my very first post that I would try to go somewhere every weekend, and so a few weeks ago I went to Atsuta Shrine to watch Touka Shinji, a ceremony performed by Shinto priests at the start of the year. Some of the priests played instruments while the others dance (I call it dancing but it is more similar to making slow, deliberate movements with a sword and a fan). They apparently needed to step on the ground to stabilize evil spirits and pray for happiness. It was really interesting but I wish I could understand it better! I enjoyed a good walk around the shrine afterwards, and had lunch at one of the numerous food stalls along its entrance.

The next ceremony I attended was at Yamada Tenmagu Shrine. The shrine worships Sugawara no Michizane as the god of learning, and so is a very popular place to wish for success in your studies. The ceremony I went to is called Usokae, and it is held every year on January 25th. The idea is that you change all the bad luck that has happened in the previous year into “lies” (“uso” in Japanese). Each shrine-goer pays 1,000 yen for an envelope with a small wooden bullfinch (also called “uso” in Japanese) in it. We then all stand in a circle, and each person passes his or her envelope to the next to the sound of drums. When the drums stop, the envelope that is in your hand is yours. The bullfinch protects you from bad luck, and you can even exchange your normal bullfinch for a bigger bullfinch or a golden one if your bullfinch has special kanji under it.

I really enjoyed walking around the shrines, blending into the crowd and following whatever it is they are doing. It made me feel like I was a part of the community, and is a completely different type of learning to just reading about the ceremonies in class! I hope I will be able to go to more events like the two above soon.

Anh Nguyen

<div><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Anh hailed from Hanoi, Vietnam and is currently a sophomore at Haverford College, Pennsylvania. She plans to major in Computer Science, but decided to take a non-CompSci semester abroad before coming back to it in her junior year (after all, when else will she get the chance?). In her free time she enjoys reading, exploring new places and new types of food, people-watching, as well as reading food blogs, planning to make every single dish that catches her eye, and then completely forgetting about them. She is as excited to blog about her journey as she is about her Spring semester in Nagoya!</span></div>

2014 Spring
Home University:
Haverford College
Computer Science
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