Naturally I just had visit Yasukuni Shrine for the second day of the Shunkireitaisai, the main day. In the old days (any year during the more than 1000 year history of this ceremony) it was often attended by the emperor or one of his chosen representatives. Since 1978 however, the emperors of Japan has stopped visiting this shrine personally so the ceremony has to be performed without royal presence until their differences can be worked out. I am sure they will, some day in the future. The nicely dressed people are there to greet the ceremony as it makes its way to the heart of the shrine. The last day of the ceremony is on the 23rd of April, but I won’t be able to see that, unfortunately. It is a rare chance to be allowed to photograph these shinto ceremonies and I am happy I got to be there during these two days!
Every great shrine in Japan has a regular yearly festival, something called their “reisai”, so naturally one of the greatest shrines in the country, the Yasukuni shrine has two of them! One of which started yesterday, called the Shunkireitaisai, which means the Regular Spring Time Grand Festival, quite literally translated into English. It’s a three day event and yesterday they held the opening ritual in which a holy branch from a holy tree was presented to the inner sanctum and used to sanctify the attendants in the festival, in this case priests and a select few lay people, and even everyone who attended the ceremony, which included me! It’s the first time I have had this ritual performed on my although I have seen it from a distance dozens of times! Lucky me! Yesterday’s ceremony was only attended by about 50 people, a very small crowd, as the regular festival starts the following day, which would be today, the 22nd of April, and ends on the 23rd of April.
Usually, shinto priests and clergy aren’t very open to being photographed, so I have very few photos of priests in uniform since I don’t want to offend anyone, but on this occasion photography was allowed and I snapped away like there was no tomorrow! I hope you aren’t bored by the repetitive photos, all taken with my lovely prime lens, the 135mm at f2.8.