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Home » 5. Rites and Festivals » Individual Shrine Observances
Yutate Shinji
In this rite water is boiled in a large pot in front of the altar (shinzen). Female shrine mediums (miko) and priests (shinshoku) dip bamboo leaves in the hot water and splash the hot water on themselves by shaking the leaves. While repeatedly splashing hot water around the pot in time with music, they become possessed by the kami (kamigakari) and utter oracles (takusen). It has been argued that this is the remnant of the ancient kugatachi custom. (Kugatachi was a custom where someone's hands were submerged in boiling water to determine the will of the kami.) In other words, whilst originally this was a ceremony of a trial by ordeal to determine a person's innocence or guilt, the interpretation was expanded to include the purpose of eliminating pollutions (kegare) of festival participants. Some interpretations include a belief that it includes a concept of rejuvenation through the use of young water (wakamizu). In some cases, this rite is performed to learn the will of kami.
       The Kugatachi rite to worship Ubusunagami of the Matsuo kami, takes place on July 16 at Hirota Jinja in Nishinomiya City, Hyōgo Prefecture. This rite is also called yutate. A large pot is placed inside the shrine precincts (keidai) and a bamboo mat is laid on the top of the pot. Straw bundles are lined up on the mat and fire is set underneath the pot. An old lady with a cane, disguised as a shrine worker (ji'nin) with a straw hat, appears and asks, "What is it that you are steaming?" From nearby comes a sung reply "We have found smallpox and measles." A baby is brought in and held above the pot in such a way that it appears to be steamed.
       Yutate was performed to eliminate smallpox and measles at Higashiumezu in Ukyō Ward, Kyoto.
       The Yutate rite is performed by a shrine medium (miko) at the oratory (haiden) on the last day of the festival that takes place on September 14 through 16 at Yokoyama Hachimangū in Miyako City, Iwate Prefecture. While boiling water in a pot and stirring, she is possessed by the kami (kamigakari) and utter oracles (takusen).
       Festivals of water boiling and sacred music (yutate kagura) take place during the period of November through January at the various shrines of; Tenryū Village, Anan Town, Minamishinano Village, and Kami Village of Shimoina County, Nagano Prefecture; Toyone Village, Tsugu Village, and Tōei Town of Kitashitara County, Aichi Prefecture; Mizukubo Town and Sakuma Town of Iwata County, Shizuoka Prefecture. This yutate is to make prayers. In this region, when someone wishes to pray (ryūgan) outside of the festival period, an assistant priest (negi) performs a special yutate kagura to pray for a recovery from illness and so on.
       There are many cases throughout the nation where yutate and kagura are combined. In the Tohoku region, yutate dances by miko are widespread. Likewise in the Kansai region, miko called sonettan perform a yutate dance in front of the boiling pot prior to a sacred rice paddy festival (mita matsuri) of Mutsugata Shrine in Kawanishi Town, Shiki County, Nara Prefecture.
       As stated above, yutate by miko are common in the Tohoku region. On the other hand, for tōya festivals (tōyasai) of the western Japan, it is common that shinshoku performs the purification shinji at the house of tōnin (overseeing households) before a festival. Additionally, there is rite at Suwa Shrine in Hakone-machi, Ashigara-gun, Kanagawa Prefecture called yutate shishimai, in which a lion (shishi) performs yutate.

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