Another of my Japanese obsessions is the beautifully ornate Sake barrels often found displayed close to shrines.
There is a particularly impressive Sake barrel display close to the entrance of Meiji Jingu Shrine in Shibuyu.
When displayed near a Shinto shrine, such barrels are called kazaridaru, which means “decoration barrels.”
The barrels on display are empty of wine but they do have plenty of spiritual significance.
In some of Japan’s oldest texts the word used for sake is miki, written with the characters for ‘god’ and ‘wine.’ People would go a shrine festival and be given rice wine to drink.
These days, the word miki is reserved for rice wine used in Shinto rites and festivals and drinking it is an act of symbolic unification with the gods.
Therefore Shinto shrines and sake manufacturers have a win win relationship where the shrines conduct rites to ask the gods for the prosperity of the brewers, and the brewers donate the Sake that shrines need for ceremonies and festivals.
Brewers will tend to provide a single bottle, or an empty barrel for display as it’s the kimochi (gesture) that’s important.
Empty barrels received as donations are stacked and bound together, then fixed with rope to a simple frame to keep them from falling over.
A brief note about the shrine itself – Meiji Jingu Shrine is a Shinto shrine located in a 175 acre forest. The peaceful forest has around 120,000 trees of 365 different species and is a great people watching spot.
The shrine is dedicated to the divine souls of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken.