Symbolic night with 'goddess' to wrap up emperor's accession rites
Japan Today -- Nov 12
On Thursday evening, Emperor Naruhito will dress in pure white robes and be ushered into a dark wooden hall for his last major enthronement rite: spending the night with a "goddess."

Centered on Amaterasu Omikami, the sun goddess from whom conservatives believe the emperor has descended, the Daijosai is the most overtly religious ceremony of the emperor's accession rituals after his father Akihito's abdication.

Scholars and the government say it consists of a feast, rather than, as has been persistently rumored, conjugal relations with the goddess.

Although Naruhito's grandfather Hirohito, in whose name soldiers fought World War Two, was later stripped of his divinity, the ritual continues.

That has prompted anger - and lawsuits - from critics who say it smacks of the militaristic past and violates the constitutional separation of religion and state, as the government pays the cost of 2.7 billion yen.

WHAT HAPPENS?

At about 7 p.m., Naruhito enters a specially-built shrine compound by firelight, disappearing behind white curtains.

In a dimly-lit room he kneels by piled straw mats draped in white, said to be a resting place for the goddess, as two shrine maidens bring in offerings of food, from rice to abalone, for Naruhito to use in filling 32 plates made from oak leaves.

Then he bows and prays for peace for the Japanese people before eating rice, millet and rice wine "with" the goddess.

The entire ritual is repeated in another room, ending at about 3 a.m.

News source: Japan Today
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