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Home » 5. Rites and Festivals » State Rites
Kinensai
A regular observance during the Ritsuryō nation, also called toshigoi no matsuri. It ranks alongside the Tsukinamisai (of the sixth and twelfth months) and the Niinamesai (of the eleventh month) as one of the most important of the time, as shown by the relatively large amount of imperial tribute (heihaku) offered in its celebration. It was celebrated annually on the fourth day of the second month to pray for a bountiful harvest. The governance of Shinto affairs by the Ritsuryō nation usually only affected the affairs of "imperially administered shrines," but all 3,132 shrines recorded in the Jinmyochō (a list of all shrines receiving any form of official patronage, either imperial or provincial) were required to perform the Kinensai. Recent opinion holds that Emperor Jinmu established the Kinensai in 675 as rite of the Ritsuryō nation, modeling it on a spring field-sowing rite widely observed in China. In 798, a distinction was introduced between Imperially-endowed/administarted shrines ("jingikan saijin" or kanpeisha) and Provincially-endowed shrines ("kokushi saiki nenshi" or kokuheisha,), as well as between large and small shrines of each of these categories. The rite itself, as performed at the Jingikan saiin, consisted of two parts: presentation of a norito and presentation of tribute (hanpei gyōji). The emperor himself does not appear to have participated in the ceremony but the main officials of the Jingikan and such officials of the Council of State as the daijin, sang, ben, and geki, and the hafuribe (who travelled to the capital to receive the tribute, known as heihaku) all participated. The rite became an empty formality in the Heian period as the hafuribe ceased to participate and the officials became negligent, until the Kinensai came to be celebrated solely within the Jingikan. Beginning around the middle of the Heian period, however, the object of worship during the ceremony became, not the assorted kami enshrined at each of the 3,132 participating shrines, but Amaterasu Ōmikami lending Kinensai a much greater solmenity. In the Insei period (roughly 1072-1287), the sense of its importance continued to increase, eventually becoming a rite performed by the emperor himself to honor Amaterasu. It eventually became such a sacred ceremony that the court ritual would be cancelled in case of any pollution at the Ise Shrines, and even the dispatch of a provisional imperial emissary to Ise would be suspended. Emperor Juntoku's Kinpishō of the early Kamakura period, clearly discusses Kinensai as a ritual of the Ise Shrines, revealing many of the above-mentioned facts. Like other palace rituals, Kinensai died out at the end of the Muromachi period as a result of war. Thereafter it was only preserved in an abbreviated, irregular form called sairō by the Shirakawa house, which had inherited the position of head of the Jingikan. There was an unsuccessful attempt to revive Kinensai in the waning years of the seventeenth century (1688-1704), but in fact it was not revived until the Meiji period, in 1869.

—Fujimori Kaoru
Kinensai of Atsuta Jingū

Aichi Prefecture, 2008

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