Sacred and Science
The Asadori Myoujin Jinja has been observing a sacred winter solstice ceremony for thousands of years, since Jomon times. The Kanayama Megaliths have been tracking the path of the sun for the purpose of a solar calendar for five thousand years. How are they connected? For a ritual to be conducted exactly on the sacred day, in this case winter solstice day, the people had to know the calendar correctly to one day. Ancient Jomon people constructed the megalithic observatory which serves this purpose. Many old shrines, such as the Asadori Myoujin, have been laid out facing the direction of the winter solstice sunrise, and this also requires knowledge of solar astronomy.
Winter Solstice Matsuri, 2018
The Asadori Myoujin Jinja’s winter solstice matsuri took place at dawn on December 22, 2018. There was a driving rain, but many people were present. There was a bonfire outside the torii, for warmth and light. In clear weather, the rising sun would send its light through the torii to the altar at the small shrine. This morning, a canopy had been erected in front of the altar for some protection from the rain.
The ceremony opened with Baba-san, the negi-san (senior priest), leading with three calls of the Asadori (morning bird):
Senior priest Baba-san explained that they raised their voices joyously to greet the sun as it rises on winter solstice day. The guji-san chief priest recited a norito to Asadori Myoujin in gratitude for blessing the earth with the return of the sun to the northern skies.
After the formal ceremony, Baba-san lauded the kokoro (heart-mind) of those present for braving the heavy rain at dawn. Then, he announced that his 96th birthday would be the following day. After a lifetime of serving in this matsuri, he was stepping down and turning it over to his son.
96 year-old Baba-san
and Guji-san in foreground
Photos by Chika-san.
Higashinoyama winter solstice sunrise, 9:04 am December 24, 2018.
We reported on winter solstice 2017 at the Kanayama Megaliths. Winter solstice took place on Saturday, December 22, 2018 at 7:22 am in Japan. It was cloudy on the 22nd and the 23rd. On the 24th, a group hiked up Higashinoyama for a successful observation. Above is Chika’s photo of the rising sun as seen from the observing megalith, on December 24, 2018 at 9:04 am. Although the time of sunrise was 6:58 am, it took two hours for the sun to be seen at the megalith, even though it is on top of a mountain, due to the terrain and the trees.
The group returned to Senkoku-Ishi and waited for the sunset. Official time of sunset was 4:45 pm, but the sun sinks out of sight earlier. The view from between Stones B and B’ at 4:03 pm is magnificent, as seen in Chika’s photo below.
The Simulator near Senkoku-ishi models the observation of sun beams at five different times of the year. In the early afternoon of winter solstice day, December 22, 2018, at 13:29:00, the following photo was taken by K.S.
There are several new posts at our Japanese counterpart of the the Kanayama Megaliths blog. On 10/23, sixty days before winter solstice, a group trekked up Higashinoyama to see the sunrise. Above is the photo, and this is the 9-meter long stone on which the observer sits.
The group came down the mountain and went to Iwaya-Iwakage. Here is the sunlight entering the chamber at 12:50pm.
On 10/24, this striking pattern appeared on the Sekimen-ishi.
We remind you of the similarity of the Kanayama calendar with the Egyptian calendar. On this date, the rising sun shines into the stone room at the end of the Great Temple of Abu Simbel. Also, the sun rises from the Sphinx on the causeway to the great pyramid of Khafre.
We hope that you have enjoyed these reports of the solar calendar of the Kanayama Megaliths, still operating after 5,000 years!
Sunlight entering Iwaya-Iwakage on 2018.10.23 at 13:00
The sixty days before winter solstice, observed at Higashinoyama in early morning, was confirmed in Iwaya-Iwakage at around 1pm on October 23, 2018. There were clouds in the sky around that time, and cheers broke out whenever the spotlight on Sekimen-ishi stone appeared. Here are photos of the large spotlight at various times when it appeared (12:56, 13:05, and 13:09). Since we are facing north, to us the spotlight appears to move from west to east. The last photo shows the light has reached the right-hand edge of the Sekimen. Branches of trees have cast some shadows on the stone.
This sunrise photo was taken by Chika-san the morning of 2018.10.23 at 09:44:25 on Higashinoyama. On the right of the sun is S Stone, on the left is the 9-m long R stone which points in the sunrise direction.
This observation heralds the approach of the winter solstice sixty days hence. The sun will occupy the same position on February 20 as it heads north for the summer. These two dates, 10/23 and 2/20 which bound winter, together with the two summer dates of 4/22 and 8/20, divide the sun’s zone in the sky into four equal parts.
Furthermore, when the winter and summer solstice dates are included, we obtain the six-season Kanayama Solar Calendar.
Okuhida Sake Brewery in Kanayama is all set for autumn with two seasonal sakes, Aki Nigori and Aki Agari. And it is gearing up for the winter sake production, waiting for the newly harvested rice.
There are some wonderful finds that are ready to enjoy. One is the sparkling Hatsumidori sake that is made like champagne — and whose quality compares favorably with champagne. It is made from 100% Hida Hotaru rice.
On the left below is one of our favorites, the unpasteurized nama sake in the 300ml bottle. On the right is the Aki Nigori Sake, decked out in autumn maple leaves.
When you’re in Hida, do come and get your Okuhida premium sake. So many to choose from, and all of highest quality and taste.
At Senkoku-ishi, the dashed spotlight tells us in a dramatic light-show when it is thirty days before and after the summer solstice. The Kanayama Megaliths Japanese blogsite has posted photos from this year’s July dashed spotlight observations. There were torrential rains in Western Japan in preceding days, followed by 39 C = 103 F high temperatures. Yet, many people came who had seen the NHK special on the Kanayama Megaliths just a couple of days prior.
The dashed spotlight could be seen for five days, growing stronger, then thinner. Even on the final day, we could see four dashes.
For other photos and the report in Japanese, please click on the above underlined link. As Shiho Tokuda reminds us in this translation from her blog:
“Because the year is not exactly 365 days, the appearance of light slightly changes even for observations on the same day every year. It is repeated approximately every four years. Although it is related to the leap year, it is difficult to determine a leap year by this observation because the movement of the sun every day as seen from the earth is small. ”
For a more accurate method for leap-year determination (in October 2019, for instance), the Kanayama Megaliths has the leap-year observation in Iwaya-Iwakage.