Participation in “Momote,” a New Year’s Shinto ritual, at Hoshi Shrine in Ionotani District, Otoyo Town
On Saturday, February 27, 2016, international students of Kochi University participated in the New Year’s Shinto ritual “Momote” at Hoshi Shrine in Ionotani District, Otoyo Town, along with residents of the district. The three participants from Kochi University (two international students and one faculty member) met three international students from Kochi University of Technology and one from the University of Kochi at the shrine.
They departed at 7:30 in the morning by bus and arrived at the shrine at 8:45. As only males were allowed to shoot arrows for Shinto religious reasons, only male students chosen as archers entered the prayer hall at 9:00 to get changed into traditional costumes and take part in the prayer marking the start of this archery ritual, while the other students made preparations to set up a special archery range for the Momote ceremony with the local people. The archery ceremony started at 9:45, and the 12 archers, divided into two groups of six, began to shoot arrows in turns at their targets. Since this was the first time that these students had ever shot arrows, it took them sometime to get used to it, finding it difficult to even draw the bow at first. After seeing experienced archers show their skills and with the cheers of the local people, however, the arrows that they couldn’t even shoot at first, hit near the center of the target in the end.
After this, they went back into the prayer hall, and the Shinto ritual was complete. Socializing started at 15:00, and locally produced mountain vegetables, shiitake mushrooms, and chirashi-zushi, as well as sacred food and drinks, such as sake offered to the gods and dishes cooked with rice offered to the gods, were served. Although some had worried that the international students could feel uncomfortable eating unfamiliar foods, they all liked the mountain vegetables and other local dishes, finishing off one dish after another.
The students not only gained the experience of shooting arrows at a shrine for the first time and communicating with local people, but also learned a lot of things by asking them about the shrine buildings, customs, local agricultural methods, and so on, showing deep interest and enthusiasm. All in all, it seems to have been a fulfilling opportunity for these international students.