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 Rice, Mochi, and Sake

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Silver Wind
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Silver Wind

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PostSubject: Rice, Mochi, and Sake   Rice, Mochi, and Sake Icon_minitimeFri Nov 16, 2007 5:51 pm

Rice is a long-standing staple of the Japanese diet, and it is not surprising that rice is offered in prayer and praise to Shinto deities throughout Japan. In many Shinto ceremonies, pounded rice cakes (mochi) are offered to the deities by the Shinto priest on behalf of the local community. According to some, each grain of rice symbolizes a tamashii (human soul), and thus a rice cake is said to represent millions of souls.

In olden times, the rice was hand-pounded by the community in an event known as mochitsuki (lit. "making rice cakes"). Even today, Shinto and secular groups in Japan typically gather to make mochi on the third day before the New Year. This is mostly a community event, but to some, it is also a rite of self purification. Sake, which is made from rice, is one of the five Shinto elements of purification, and is offered to the deities and worshippers at Shinto ceremonies, and used symbolically in weddings.

Sake (Rice Wine)

In olden days, sake was produced in the shrine's sakadono (wine hall). At religious ceremonies, the communal partaking of miki (another name for sake) is called naorai. There are two types of ritual sake -- Shiroki (light) and Kuroki (dark) -- that are typically presented as offerings (e.g., at the Niinamesai and Daijosai festivals). According to the Engi Shiki, divination was performed prior to production to determine what rice to use, and from what region to harvest. Dark sake was often made by mixing in the ashes of the kusaki (type of arrowroot) or utsugi (Deutzia scabra).

Sanku and Shinsen

Sanku is the practice of scattering offerings of rice, sake, or money to the local deity or household deity. At the offering site, the offerings are typically scattered around the four corners and into the center. Shinsen refers to food offerings and includes Shinto staples like rice or rice cakes, sake, salt, and water. But just about anything will do, including fish, fowl, meat, seaweed, vegetables, fruits, or sweets. Some shrines still prepare the food in a consecrated kitchen building called the shinsenden. Jukusen refers to cooked food, seisen means raw food, and sosen means vegetarian food.

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