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As I was looking through my photos recently, I saw something that I thought needed some explanation, if you don’t know what they are: sake barrels at Japanese shrines.
Are those really sake barrels at Japanese shrines?
Well, yes, they are. …Ok. I guess we’re done here. See you next week, frens!
JK, JK. I’ll tell you about the sake barrels.
If you have ever been to a Japanese Shinto shrine, you will probably have seen a wall of barrels, stacked on top of each other. They are mostly white, and they are covered in words and pretty pictures with rope tied around them. They are sake barrels, but they are not full of sake – they are just for decoration. The sake barrels are called sakedaru. The decoration of sake barrels is called kazaridaru.
See, in Japan, drinking sake at a Shinto shrine is a symbolic way to bring humans closer to the gods. At least in a spiritual setting. It doesn’t mean the same thing when people go out drinking after work. Getting hammered doesn’t bring you close to the gods. At least not that I’m aware. But by going to a Shinto shrine and sipping a cup of sake during rituals and rites, people feel closer to the gods. In some old Japanese texts, sake is written with the characters for “god” and “wine.”
Wait. What’s Shinto?
Shintoism is a native and veeeery old Japanese religion that seeks to establish a connection with the ancient past. In Shintoism, there is a god in everything. There’s a god in this rock, that tree, that dog, and even your ancestors. Shinto shrines often have a torii gate, like the one at Heian Shrine. You should also wash your hands with water and bow when you enter the grounds to pray. I don’t wash my hands because I’m a filthy person. The most important god is Amaterasu, the sun god. Amaterasu is the ancestor of the line of Japanese emperors.
Interesting story – when I first moved in to this apartment, there was a small shrine next to it. Not a fancy one, just like a tiny one in front of an abandoned house. A couple years later, the city tore down the abandoned house, including the shrine. (I tried to snatch the fox statue laying on the ground, but concrete is too heavy). Before construction started on the next house, someone planted a small tree with Shinto things tied to it. I guess as a way to appease the gods for tearing down their house, and so the gods don’t haunt the next building. Makes sense.
Ok, back to why there are sake barrels at Japanese shrines.
The reason there are sake barrels at Japanese shrines is because Shinto festivals still use sake during purification rituals, like weddings, store openings, or after you demolish a shrine. Though the ones you see on display are just for display. For rituals, they take sake from a bottle, not the barrels. They only store sake in barrels temporarily, and not the ones you see outside. As for the sake that shrines use in rituals, they get it by donation from sake brewing companies. Then the brewing companies give the empty barrels as a gesture, and the shrine puts them on display.
But I always like seeing the displays of sake barrels at Japanese shrines. They are great photos and are a pretty cool representation of Japanese culture.
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>> And if you like sake, you might also be interested in all you can eat deep fry
And that’s why there are sake barrels at Japanese shrines
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