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Home » 6. Belief and Practice » Divination and Supplication
Okagemairi
"Thanks pilgrimages" or "blessing pilgrimages," a term referring to periodic mass pilgrimages to the Grand Shrines of Ise (Ise Jingū) in the Edo period, undertaken against the backdrop of the spread of the Ise cult (Ise shinkō) from the middle ages and the general acceptance of pilgrimages by commoners to the shrines at Ise. This kind of mass pilgrimage phenomenon is believed to have been observed some fifteen times through the early modern period, including the years 1638, 1650, 1661, 1701, 1705, 1718, 1723, 1730, 1748, 1755, 1771, 1803, 1830, 1855, and 1867. Of these, the four in 1650, 1705, 1771, and 1830 have traditionally been considered of the largest scale, with over two-million pilgrims participating in 1771. Another characteristic of these pilgrimages is the consciousness that they were to occur every fifty to sixty years, in rough conjunction with the sexegenary cycle.
       The term okagemairi is said to have become commonly used from around the time of the 1771 event, and while the expression nukemairi ("slipping away pilgrimage," one taken without permission) is also used, the two terms were normally discriminated based on their different motifs. In 1867, the pilgrimage tended to be more local in nature, and it tended on the whole to have the characteristics of a mass movement during a period of social revolution, in which "world-renewal dances" gained popularity in conjunction with the concurrent fad of the so-called eejanaika movement (an antinomian folk movement with millenarian overtones). In sum, each occasion of the okagemairi tended to feature its own unique motifs. The significance of the term okage is not clear, but it appears to have referred either to the "blessings of the Grand Shrines," or to the fact that the pilgrimage was possible due to the "blessings of others," (namely, money and other alms given to pilgrims along the way).
       In the background to this kind of pilgrimage to Ise can be counted economic growth, expansion of roads and lodging facilities along the way, the activity of the onshi (or oshi) who hosted the pilgrims at Ise, and the nationwide growth of local pilgrimage confraternities (). At the base, however, one must not overlook the phenomenon of tobishinmei (the "flying body of the deity") seen from the late medieval period, and the faddish spread of Ise dances (Iseodori) and the cultic worship of the farming plow (okuwagami). In some cases, pilgrims visited famous sites and attractions along the way, with Ise as the turnaround mid-way point of the pilgrimage, and many recorded events portray a non-everyday space and time involving the "raining" of divine emblems (shinsatsu) and other miracles, antinomian sexual behavior, and wild "Ise dances." Many locales also memorialized the events with the dedication of stone votive lanterns and votive plaques (ema). See also nukemairi

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"Establishment of a National Learning Institute for the Dissemination of Research on Shinto and Japanese Culture"
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