Ise Grand Shrine - Annual Festivals

Annual Festivals

From the late 7th century, when the festivals and offerings of Ise Shrine became more formalised, a number of annual events have been performed at both Naikū and Gekū. The Tsukinamisai, which was held in June and December, as well as the Kannamesai in September, were the only three offerings performed by the Saio, an imperial princess who served as high priestess of the shrine until the 14th century. These offerings are based on the cycle of the agricultural year and are still performed today.

The first important ceremony of the modern calendar year is the Kinensai, where prayers are offered for a bountiful harvest. Kannamesai, where prayers for fair weather and sufficient rains are made, is held twice a year in May and August at both Naikū and Gekū.

The most important annual festival held at Ise Shrine is the Kannamesai Festival 神嘗祭. Held in October each year, this ritual makes offerings of the first harvest of crops for the season to Amaterasu. An imperial envoy carries the offering of rice harvested by the Emperor himself to Ise, as well as five-coloured silk cloth and other materials, called heihaku.

Besides the agricultural ceremonies already mentioned, ceremonies and festivals are held throughout the year at both Naikū and Gekū to celebrate such things as the new year, the foundation of Japan, past emperors, purification rituals for priests and court musicians, good sake fermentation and for the Emperor's birthday. There are also daily food offerings to the shrine kami held both in the mornings and evenings.

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