The Asadori Myoujin is a shrine in the Mino area of Gifu-ken that goes back to very ancient times. It observes a solar calendar in which the year begins on winter solstice day, when the sun in the northern hemisphere is as far south as it gets and begins its annual journey northward again. It is a cause for celebrating the return of the sun.
We found a description of the festival on a blog on musublog. Our free translation below helps us to understand a little better the people’s reverence for the Hi no Kami, Kami of the Sun.
The Winter Solstice Matsuri of Asadori Myoujin (Gifu-ken Ibigawa-machi)
There is an unusual festival reminiscent of an ancient winter solstice ceremony from the Ibukiyama and Ikeda mountains nestling in the Yoro Ranges, along the Ibigawa River in the north.
朝鳥明神 Asadori (Asatori) Myoujin was founded as an old shrine 古社, listed in the national history book about 1500 years ago, from around the 4th century. It is the oldest shrine in the prefecture in which an ancient ritual remains. This shrine became the base of the making of the country of Mino-no-kuni.
The shrine is set in a luxuriantly forested sacred mountain, and even now has the appearance of ancient shrine creation.
The white wooden torii is called Shime Torii, a gate where the 朝鳥明神 Asatori Myoujin enshrines 日の神, the Kami of the Sun, on winter solstice morning as the sun shines through the gate that determines the azimuth of the sun. This festival is held for 明神さま Myoujin-sama every year on the early morning of the winter solstice.
Originally there was no shrine, and an Iwasaka (rock border) is enshrined as a divine body in the hilly area behind it. Right behind that is the 朝烏古墳群 Asadori Burial Mound Group; it is the center of the worship of the Hi no Kami (Kami of Sun) of the ancestors.
This festival (日迎えの神事, Himukae ceremony) for greeting the revival of the power of the sun at sunrise began before the founding of Japan. On the day of the festival, local members will ignite fires from early dawn, give a norito and wait for the winter solstice sun to rise.
Before one’s eyes, spreading from the direction of the Noubi Plain (direction of Seto), the sun shows its face. The beginning light passes through the torii directly to the goshintai in the rear, and the center of the iwasaka’s remarkably huge Sun Stone is illuminated.
This ends our report on this blog. We are hopeful of visiting the shrine and bringing you photos of the torii and the sun-stones.