SakeMasters Academy 2: Brief History of Sake (Ritual Aspect of Sake - Shinto Shrine and Sake)
Have you visited "Shinto" (神道) shrine in Japan and got ”Omiki" (お神酒) (sacred sake, literally God sake in Japanese) there? We need to explain a little bit background what is Shinto before talking about sake. In general, Japanese people are not much strictly religious but incorporate some religious manners into their lives. Major religions are Shinto (literally, Way of God in English) and Buddhism in Japan although many Japanese people may not perceive them as a religion but as a way of life. At least, it is understood that Jinja (神社) (Shinto shrine) and Otera (お寺) (temple) are for Shinto and Buddhism, respectively.
Shinto is a polytheism with multiple gods for its belief by finding gods in nature such as mountains, big rocks, rivers, natural phenomenon, ancestors from mythologies, animals, plants etc. There is no absolute god in Shinto, unlike in other religions. We believe that ancient Japanese people found gods in nature because they highly relied on nature to harvest rice and other crops as well as their lives themselves, and were vulnerable against drought, bad weather, flood or other natural disasters.
In Japan, rice, mochi (餅) (sticky rice cake), sake are three major offerings to the god in Shinto shrine. As with many other cultures, Japanese people used to bring these offerings in spring to pray for a good harvest and in autumn to show their gratitude for a result of harvest.
Still nowadays, sake is an indispensable part of these offerings at Shinto shrine. You may find many Sakadaru (酒樽) (sake barrels) at Shinto shrine. It is a traditional belief that the god consumes sake after the offering (although no physical change) and sake receives a power from the god. Then shrine often provides such a "transformed" sake as "Omiki" to those who coming to the shrine to pray for good luck. Japanese people also drink/use sake at ceremonial occasions such as wedding, festival, funeral, Jichinsai (地鎮祭) (groundbreaking ceremony for a construction) in addition to regular consumptions of sake. Therefore, sake is an important and integral part of present life and culture of people in Japan. In the next academy, we will discuss a "Brief History of Sake (Development of Sake Making 1/5 - Nara to Heian Periods)".
“Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind”
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