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Home » 5. Rites and Festivals » Shrine Rituals
Gyōji sahō
This is commonly used to refer to the ritual protocols of Jinja ceremonies but Gyōji sahō are the detailed regulations stipulating the performance of shrine rituals. Sahō refers to the manner of the fundamental actions of the priest (shinshoku) when they perform shrine rites, and which when combined, form the shrine rites (gyōji). In ancient times there was no common shrine ritual protocols for all shrines in Japan. Instead, the practice of the palace was taken to be the standard, but as part of the early Meiji re-organization of the shrine system, the basic code for the performance of shrine rites (jinja saishiki) was issued in 1875. A more detailed code, Jinja saishiki gyōji sahō (Protocol for Shrine Rites and Rituals), was issued in 1907. This was revised in 1942 and abolished along with other shrine-related laws at the end of the war. These codes were revised and re-instituted by the Association of Shinto Shrines (jinja honchō) in 1948 and revised again in 1971. This include regulations for practices such as opening and closing of sanctuary doors, invoking the kami, presenting and clearing away offerings, presenting and withdrawing tribute received from the Association, offering of norito, bowing, purifications (shubatsu), communal meals following a ritual (naorai), and cleansing of the hands and mouth. Posture, rising and sitting, retiring and advancing, Keihitsu, use of shaku and fans, how to hold, present or receive offerings and other behaviors are all regulated. In addition, seating order, hierarchy and precedence at festivals are specified. Thus all the shrines of the nation perform shrine rites according to common ritual protocols. However, exceptions are permitted to accommodate the historical practice of particular shrines or in cases where the shrine's architectural construction presents difficulties. Consideration is also made for women priests, who have emerged since the war. For example, in the section on posture and sitting seiza (sitting with the legs folded under one), males must "sit with the big toes placed one on top of each other, the knees slightly apart, the hands resting on the top of the thigh and the back straight. Women must sit with the big toes placed one on top of each other, the thighs together, the hands resting on the top of the thighs and the back straight." (Jinja Honchō kitei ruishū).

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