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Home » 3. Institutions and Administrative Practices » The Emperor
Hōbei
Offerings of heihaku made to shrines and imperial tombs by order of the Emperor. The term also refers to an envoy who bore these offerings, (alternatively called the hōbeishi). The characters can also be read as hōhei. Sometimes this was offered to only one shrine, while on other occasions, it was offered simultaneously to several shrines. An example of the latter is the well-known "Twenty-two Shrines hōbei." There were regular offerings which had become customs and also there were extraordinary occasions. The hōbei usually accompanied an imperial message (senmyō) but the paper used for the message differed according to the shrine: for example, the paper used for The Grand Shrines of Ise was a deep blue (hanada-iro), and that for Kamo Shrine was crimson (kurenai-iro), while for other shrines, yellow paper was used. With the decline of the power of the court in the middle ages, these offerings became increasingly token. After the Ōnin War (1467-1477) they ceased entirely, except for the offerings sent to the Grand Shrines of Ise. However during the Edo Period in the second half of the 17th century, there was a strengthening trend to restore court rites. In 1744 after a break of almost 300 years, the hōbei offerings to seven shrines (Ise, Iwashimizu, Kamo, Matsunoo, Hirano, Inari, and Kasuga) were restored. The "Ordinance on Imperial Household Rites" of 1908 created detailed provisions concerning the hōbei. According to the Meiji system, Jingū and royal mausolea as well as official shrines called kankokuheisha and others received hōbei. However in 1911, the envoys who had commonly been called hōbeishi were officially renamed heihakukyōshinshi (envoys who offer the heihaku). Currently hōbei are sent to Ise Shrine and the other venues of imperial rites known as chokusaisha and also to imperial mausolea for Shikinensai memorial rites. Envoys who carry offerings from the Association of Shintō Shrines (Jinjahonchō) to various shrines are currently called kenpeishi.

— Inoue Nobutaka
"Establishment of a National Learning Institute for the Dissemination of Research on Shinto and Japanese Culture"
4-10-28 Higashi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, 150-8440, Japan
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