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Home » 5. Rites and Festivals » Individual Shrine Observances
Nyōdō sai
This festival starts on December 31 and ends before daybreak on January 1 at Ōmiwa Jinja in Sakurai City, Nara Prefecture. At midnight, the priest uses a special "fire-starting" mortar and pestle to kindle a pure fire (imibi) revered as a "sacred fire" (goshinka). After this ceremony, the priest transfers the sacred fire to a giant torch and then divides it among the worshippers. From around two a.m., crowds of worshippers rush to transfer the sacred fire from the giant torch to their own bamboo-handled fuses or small torches. The speed at which the fire is transferred foretells one's fortune for the coming year. The sacred fire of the giant torch, along with shinsen (offering) torches, is carried by about fifty people who make a pilgrimage to a total of eighteen auxiliary shrines (sessha) and branch shrines (massha), returning to the Ōmiwa Shrine around five a.m. The parishioners use this fire as an offering in their own kamidana (household altar) or to kindle a fire for cooking zōni, a traditional New Year's meal. Nyōdō apparently means "walking around the foot of Miwayama Mountain."

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