Welcome to Japan

Yesterday, the three of us went to Shirahata Hachiman Daijin, our local shrine, to have a ceremony performed to mark my getting permanent resident status. I wanted to mark it in some way, because otherwise it would just be a matter of going and getting the sticker in my passport, and it really ought to be more significant than that. So, I booked it a week ago, for 9:30 in the morning, as there were other ceremonies booked from 10. We managed to get dressed up in smart clothes and get there by 9:40, but that was fine. With it being a local shrine, they don’t work to tightly regulated schedules aimed to get hundreds of people through.

The shrine family had obviously decided that getting permanent residence was a big deal, which it is. After all, that’s why I wanted to mark it.

First, the chief priest’s wife had written a norito (Shinto prayer) especially for the occasion. The basic collection of example norito issued by the Association of Shinto Shrines doesn’t have one for permanent residence, and I suspect that the large collections of norito written by famous National Learning scholars also fail to cover this possibility. So, she wrote one for us, and it was very good, at least as far as I could judge. It asked the kami that I become friendly with the people of “Taira, Miyamae-ku, Kawasaki, Kanagawa, and Japan”, thus working out in size of regions, and included Yuriko and Mayuki’s names as well, praying for health and prosperity for all of us. (As I may have mentioned before, she wrote a good norito for when I joined the Representative Assembly for Foreign Residents, as well.)

Then, there were the items we received after the ceremony. You always get stuff after a formal shrine visit: typically an o-fuda (shrine tablet), some sake, and some food. The food is normally dried bonito flakes, but this time we got a very nice baumkuchen. O-fuda also come in various sizes, and at most shrines you get a bigger o-fuda when you offer more money. Shirahata-san is normally the same; you can receive larger o-fuda for larger offerings at New Year’s. However, I got a bigger o-fuda than normal at this ceremony, and since at the point they were making it they probably guessed, correctly, that I was going to offer the normal 5,000 yen (that’s the starting price for a ceremony), the size has to reflect their judgement of the significance of the occasion.

Finally, the chief priest, who wasn’t doing the ceremony, came to the waiting room beforehand to congratulate us. At that point, he gave us a noshi-bukuro with “O-Iwai”, “Congratulations”, written on it. Noshi-bukuro are exclusively used for gifts of money, so that was a real surprise. It was even more of a surprise when I got home and opened it. (It’s rude to open it on the spot.) The envelope contained 10,000 yen. Not only that, but it was a Shotoku Taishi 10,000 yen note. (The lower picture on this page.) I’d never seen a real one before, although I’d seen pictures, and if I read the Bank of Japan site correctly, they stopped circulating them in January 1986. (The successor note went into circulation in November 1984, so they probably stopped printing them then.) Notwithstanding that, the note was in new condition. This is normal for these sorts of gifts, and with current notes you can just go to a bank and ask for new notes. However, with one that’s been out of circulation for 25 years, I imagine you really have to have kept a stock of them. Obviously, I have no plans to actually spend this note.

Everything made me feel that they were really pleased that I was staying in Japan. In short, I felt very welcome. It was definitely well worth having the ceremony.

Posted in Japan, Shinto.

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