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Blowing away your sins

Although we live in downtown Kyoto, we are somehow still within the precinct of Fushimi Inari, the mountain shrine south of the city with all the torii gates (some photos from our hike up there a couple years ago →). The other day, to my surprise, an envelope arrived unbidden from that famous shrine. It contained instructions for participating in a purification ritual.

At the end of June shrines all over the country have a mid-summer 大祓 ōharai. The instructions that arrived in our mailbox told us to take the paper doll out of the envelope, write down our names and ages, then blow on it, thereby attaching our transgressions to the paper doll. Once returned to the envelope, — and sealed in another envelope (this is Japan) — all the dolls from the neighbourhood houses are gathered up by the president of the neighborhood association(町内会) and sent back to the shrine. There they will be opened by the appropriate shrine staff and at the end of the month ritually put into a stream to wash away all our sins. Hooray!

This particular purification ritual from Fushimi Inari dates back to the Heian Period (794 to 1185). If you can read the Japanese above you can see that there is a 100 yen fee per person. However, the fee is covered by the neighbourhood association!

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