祓い and 腹いっぱい

Today marked another incredible learning experience. Up until now, we have been fortunate to meet with experts in the specific area of research we are pursuing on each given day, and today was no exception. We began the day by travelling to Gakushuin, the university attended by many members of the royal family including Emperor Akihito, where we met Selinger-sensei’s college friend Noto-san. Noto-san holds a PhD in Shinto studies, and her father and sister are Shinto priests (with her father being one of the highest ranking priests in Japan). She grew up in Ishikawa Prefecture, where she spent a great deal of time at her home shrine until she moved to Tokyo at eighteen. It was heart-warming and inspiring to see them reconnect as old friends and scholars, and I found myself imagining that we students could find ourselves in similar positions one day as well.

During the lecture Noto-san taught us about various elements of Shinto, ranging from the etymological origins of Shinto-related kanji to the architectural layout of shrines and the symbolic significance of this layout. She overlooked no detail, patiently explaining the hierarchy of hakama colors donned by Shinto priests and the significance of various Shinto rituals. She set a particular focus on Meiji Shrine, which was especially relevant given the fact that we travelled there immediately after the lecture (and a quick lunch in Gakushuin’s dining hall).

Upon arrival at Meiji Shrine, I found the forest surrounding the shrine more breathtaking than I had anticipated. Despite only being one hundred years old, it felt truly eternal and abundant with life (the constant mosquito bites certainly contributed to this feeling). We had the opportunity to receive a guided tour from Meiji Shrine’s resident forestry expert, and the combination of his expertise with the knowledge of Noto-san and the rest of our group energized the tour and created a fast-paced learning environment.

By the end of the day, I was exhausted and doing my best not to fall asleep on the train ride home. This feeling was definitely exacerbated by our delicious yakiniku dinner and the environment engendered by the (over)eager tabehoudai attitude taken by Nan-chan and Christmas-sensei, but overall it was an amazing day. Looking forward to another one tomorrow.