Nagoshi no Harae 夏越大祓

The summer purification ceremony


In the heat of the Japanese summer, the faithful go to the sanctuary to cross the chinowa (large ring of woven grass). This passage through the chinowa is an act of purification allowing the elimination of faults, bad luck and illness. This ancestral Shinto ritual is called the Nagoshi no Harae .


Purification ritual

Nagoshi no Harae , ancestral rite of purification , takes place throughout the archipelago on the last day of June . ) but also to pray for the months to come. On this occasion, a chinowa is erected on the path leading to the sanctuary: under the torii ( shinto gate) or facing the haiden (ceremonial pavilion). These rings or gates are made of braided reeds of miscanthus and assembled with strips of paper. In some regions, the chinowa differs somewhat. At Ogami Shrine in Nara Prefecture, it is triple, with an additional cedar ring and pine ring. At the revered Izumo Taisha , the great shrine of Izumo, the chinowa is not round but U-shaped; thus being able to be held with both hands by the priest who makes it pass above the head of a faithful. Whatever its form, this crown of sacred grass remains the symbol of purification .

See also: The Daikoku to-e ceremony



Priests crossing the chinowa

Patrick Vierthaler/Flickr


Detail of a chinowa

Patrick Vierthaler/Flickr


Chinowa at Yoshida-jinja

Patrick Vierthaler/Flickr


The U-shaped chinowa at Izumo Taisha Shrine


Mount Fuji in a Chinese. One Hundred Views of Mount Fuji by Hokusai, circa 1835-1847

Library of Congress

During the Nagoshi no Harae , the priests cross the chinowa following a precise rite . While bowing, they pass through the ring then bypass it to the left to come back in front of it. They cross it again and circumvent it on the right then go back one last time through the chinowa . This done, the faithful are invited to do the same. In some shrines, priests perform the ritual while carrying a box containing small paper figures of people , called hitogata . These are then thrown into a river at the end of the Nogoshi no Harae.


Hinogata thrown into the river


Nagoshi no Harae Ceremony at Izumo Taisha Shrine

In Kyoto

Although Nagoshi no harae is celebrated throughout the country, it is in Kyoto that the most famous ceremonies take place. The Kitano Tenmangu , which hosts ceremonies from June 25 to 30, has the largest chinowa in the city; a ring of more than 5 meters ! The Kamigamo-jinja and the Kifune-jinja offer hitogata which are then scattered in the river. Beautiful purification rituals also take place at Heian jingu and Nonomiya-jinja. Attending a Nagoshi noHarae in Kyoto is an opportunity to taste small Kyoto specialties, the minazuki . These triangle-shaped steamed cupcakes topped with adzuki beans , symbolizing evil spirits, are a tradition in Kyoto purification rituals that it would be a shame to miss!

See also: Culinary specialties of Kansai



Kyoto minazuki

Address, timetable & access

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