October 13, 2015
An event to remember the image of Miyaza in the middle ages
Otou of Kuiinari Shrine
Shoji Tokimoto, Mihara City Educational Committee
Kuiinari Shrine is located on a hill overlooking Kui-cho, Mihara City in the south-eastern part of Hiroshima Prefecture. During the middle ages, this area was known as Kuinosho, and in the early modern era, the area was divided into the villages of Egi, Shimotsu, Yoshida, Azobara, Hakura, Waso, Kurogo, and Izumi.
Every year on the Sunday closest to October 19, an autumn festival is held at this shrine and an event known as "Otou" takes place. The event is comprised of the Otoushu (48 members each in the East and West seats), which begins with the selection of two representatives from this pool. This selection is made two months prior to the event by a select Shrine. When the selection is made, a new sake (sweet sake) is brewed by the representatives from the newest crop harvested from a special rice paddy.
The day's events begin with festivities in the morning, followed by afternoon ceremonies in the main hall (Seats for Shinto Priests), east garden (Seat for the Lord of the Manor), and west garden (Seat of the Stewards). The main hall ceremonies are comprised of 18 seats, each with two plates and chopsticks on a tray, which are prepared. A designated "waiter" then serves festive red rice (boiled with red beans), followed by greetings from the head Shinto priest.
In the east garden, 40 woven mats are placed in a rectangular configuration and 48 seats are prepared, each with two plates, a leaf of Japanese cypress, and chopsticks on a tray. The Otoushu will then take a seat at pre-specified locations. Two representatives and their attendants make an offering of two servings of sake and two snappers on a chopping board to the shrine, after which the snapper is given to the Seats of the Otou. The person responsible for making the offering must hold the fish at eye level to the person responsible for cutting the fish.
A scene from the east garden
The person responsible for preparing the fish cuts the snapper into pre-specified shapes resembling turtles and cranes, both of which are symbols of happiness and success. The designated waiter pours the sake and distributes a pickled daikon salad and red snapper sashimi to begin the meal.
Preparing the fish
In the west garden, 40 mats are arranged in a triangle and 48 seats, each with two plates and chopsticks on a tray, are prepared. The proceedings are similar to the east garden, except the snapper is prepared as sashimi, sprinkled with the juice of yuzu (a small citrus fruit) and distributed with salt and a pickled daikon salad.
West garden configuration
This event is held in connection with the entity organizing the festival, which emphasizes the Otou. It is performed today almost exactly as it was recorded in 1598 in the "Written Record of Inari Otou." It is a valuable event that has been passed down almost in its entirety: for this reason, it was designated as an intangible folk cultural property that needs measures such as making records in December 1981.