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Home » 4. Jinja (Shrines) » Ritual Implements and Vestments
Shimenawa
A straw rope hung before or around a site to demarcate sacred or pure space, such as before the inner sanctuary of a shrine, entrance to a shrine precinct, or a ritual site. Numerous orthographic character combinations are used with the reading shimenawa, including ޻("1-5-3") and ޻ ("7-5-3"), based on the number of straw threads thought to be used in braiding the rope. Other orthographies for the term include 졡and ɸ combinations which transmit the sense of a rope that "restricts" or "marks" something. shimenawa are usually made with a "left-hand" twist; individual loose stalks of straw may be allowed to hang from the rope in places, and ritual paper streamers called shide may also be draped from the rope. When shimenawa are hung before a shrine's sanctuary, the rope is normally hung with the thick end to the right. In ancient times shime were used as signs of ownership or exclusive possession, and frequently written with the character ɸ indicating a "marker." In addition to hanging ropes, ownership might also be expressed by a variety of other means, including the tying of an object to the thing possessed, or fixing a tree branch in the ground. The term shimenawa was coined based on the fact that rope (nawa) was the most commonly used method of marking.

-Motosawa Masashi
Shimenawa at Izumo Taisha

Shimane Prefecture, 2005

©Tsujimura Shinobu

Shimenawa connecting the "Wedded Rocks" (meoto-iwa) at Futami Okitama Jinja.

Mie Prefecture, 2005

©Ōsawa Kōji

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