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Home » 4. Jinja (Shrines) » Ritual Implements and Vestments
A ritual baton or scepter. While normally read "kotsu," the character is read in Shinto as "shaku" due to a desire to avoid associations with a different character "kotsu" meaning "bone." The shaku was originally a baton held in the right hand by court nobles when wearing formal attire (sokutai), but is now an accoutrement of the Shinto clerical vestments (shinshoku no shōzoku). Shaku were originally prepared with a strip of paper attached to the back, bearing the order of ritual as an aid to memory, but in time they came to play the role of merely adding a sense of ritual formality to the vestments.
According to the Taihō Code's "rules of clothing" (ifukurei), nobles above the fifth rank were permitted an ivory shaku, while those below the sixth rank were to use shaku made of one of several woods, including oak (either kunugi or kashi), holly, sakaki, hinoki cypress, cherry, or cryptomeria. Engishiki, however, permits even those above the fifth rank to use shaku made of unfinished woods, and later the use of wooden shaku became universal except for occasions calling for the style of clothing called raifuku.

-Motosawa Masashi
Kotsu (ritual scepter)

Shinto Museum of Kokugakuin University

Priests holding Shaku.

Tokyo, 2005

©Ōsawa Kōji

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