Japan: Emperor Naruhito To Perform The Controversial Daijosai, The Thanksgiving Ritual

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The Daijosai or great thanksgiving festival is a very important ritual performed by the Japanese emperor once during his reign to pay homage to ancestral gods

Written By Pragya Puri | Mumbai | Updated On:

On a great thanks-giving festival Japan's emperor Naruhito will perform a controversial ritual. The Daijosai or the great thanksgiving festival is a very important ritual performed by the Japanese emperor once during his reign. It is performed to extend gratitude to the gods for good harvest, for the peace and safety of the nation and also to pay homage to the ancestral gods of the emperor’s family. 

The secret ritual of Daijosai 

The ritual is secretly performed and no one apart from the emperor can witness it, this is one of the many reasons that makes the ritual controversial as it is funded by the taxpayer’s money. Other controversial reasons surrounding the Japanese ritual is that it revisits Japan’s authoritarian past, a huge sum of money is invested during the ritual along with criticism regarding the much anticipated ritual night where the emperor shares bed with a goddess. 

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The ritual marks the communion of the gods and the emperor 

According to the historical accounts, the thanksgiving ritual marks the communion of the emperor with the Sun Goddess Amaterasu, which is the monarchy’s mythological ancestor. The ritual is part of the Harvest rituals which dates back to the 7th century. The Daijosai consist of two rituals that will be performed on November 14. Initially the emperor Naruhito will cleanse himself and enter the Yukiden to offer the god and goddess with harvested rice, sake, vegetables and all the local food. At the same time pray to lards for peace and bountiful harvests. The offerings are a part of the symbolic communion. The Yukiden, is the newly constructed shrine complex inside the palace where only the emperor is allowed. The other ritual is performed in the Sukiden hall. 

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Massive investment on the ritual

According to the officials, there have been huge investment in the construction of the Daijokyu, shrine complex which consists of 30 structures of different sizes, along with two halls. The cost of the construction of the shrine is about 2 billion yen ($18 million) and the total cost of the ritual is 2.9 billion yen ($27 million). The shrine, however, will be later demolished. All the money used for the construction is taxpayers money. There have been several debates and criticism to reduce the overall cost of the ritual. 

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The ‘bed’ inside the shrine

There are also speculations regarding the presence of a bed, inside the main hall. According to some experts, the bed is used by the emperor to sleep with the sun goddess and gain divinity. While others believe it is a resting place for the imperial ancestors and not meant to be touched by the emperor. It is used as a sanctum to pray to their ancestors. According to the officials, the emperor does not use the bed to gain divinity. 

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