Thursday, October 14, 2010


These sake barrels or Kazaridaru, decoration barrels, are a common site near Shinto shrines. While the barrels are physically empty, they are full of ritual significance; in part because sake is an important symbol for bridging the distances between gods and people. In ancient texts "sake" is written as miki, composed of the characters for "god" and "wine". Nowadays, the word miki (or o-miki when given its honorific prefix) is reserved for rice wine used in Shinto rites and festivals and drinking it is still a symbolic act of unification with the gods. Consequently, Shinto shrines and sake manufacturers maintain a symbiotic relationship, in which the shrines conduct rites to ask the gods for the prosperity of the brewers, and the brewers donate the wine (and the symbolic barrels) that shrines need for ceremonies and festivals.

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