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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Saturday, December 28, 2002

Shinto sect to mark 97th year in Hawai'i

Advertiser Staff

The Rev. Daiya Amano heads the Izumo Taishakyo Mission on North Kukui Street.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

Our name: Izumo Taishakyo Mission of Hawaii.

Our affiliation: Headquartered in Shimane-ken, Japan, this Buddhist mission is led by the Senge family. The Izumo faith, known as "Izumo Taishakyo" or "Oyashirokyo," is an independent sectarian Shinto sect. There are about 400 branches.

Address: 215 N. Kukui St.

What's special about us: It is acknowledged that Izumo Taisha Shrine was the first shrine established in Japan.

Our leader: The Rev. Daiya Amano, who submitted this information.

Our numbers: 170 members. At the last annual Thanksgiving Autumn Festival, there were about 400 in attendance. At New Year's an approximate 3,000 families visit.

Our history and what we believe: Takatomi Senge organized the Izumo Tai-shakyo — or Oyashirokyo — in Japan in 1882. The Rev. Katsuyoshi Miyao was dispatched to establish a branch in Hawai'i in 1906.

Takatomi Senge, hereditary head of the Izumo Taisha (Oyashiro) of Shimane-ken, Japan, was a leading proponent of religious freedom in Japan. He informally formed a sect in 1873 to resist the government's effort to absorb all Shinto shrines and prevent religious propagation.

Since then, the Izumo Taishakyo has been known as a "sectarian" or "religious" Shinto, as opposed to Jinja or Shrine Shinto, which was systematically placed under the management of the Japanese government.

In 1882, the Izumo Taisha was formally incorporated and recognized by the government as an independent sect. "Sectarian" (Kyoha) Shinto is the name historically given to 13 independent religious sects of Shinto which were officially recognized between 1867 and 1908. Each has its own formal body of teachings distinct from the other sects and the Jinja or Shrine Shinto.

Each sectarian Shinto organization worships its primary God to which the shrine is dedicated.

The Izumo Taishakyo has never been under the management of the government, was not a Shrine Shinto and was not subject to dissolution or disestablishment after World War II.

The ancient Shinto blessing and purification rituals, which are part of every ceremony, are similar to Hawaiian blessings. These ceremonies bless and purify the body, soul and environment.

In addition to the rituals, the heart of this sectarian Shinto are the teachings: that our primary God Okuninushi no Okami and other Gods (Kami) preside over the spiritual (yu) and physical (ken) worlds. All people are born pure without sin. Our goal is to strive by our beliefs and deeds to "step-up" spiritually toward the Kami so that after death our spirit/soul may enter the spiritual world of the Kami.

The late Rev. Katsuyoshi Miyao was dispatched by the headquarters in Japan to establish a branch in Hawai'i. He arrived in 1906 to offer the first Izumo Taisha service for the pioneer Japanese issei. The present Shrine structure was erected in 1923. The late Bishop Shigemaru Miyao, son of the Rev. Katsuyoshi Miyao, succeeded as head of the Shrine, from 1935 until 1993.

During WWII, while Bishop Shigemaru Miyao and his family were interned on the Mainland, the Shrine property became the property of the City and County of Honolulu. Beginning in 1946, half of a small building was used as a temporary Shrine. In 1953, more than 10,000 signatures petitioning for the return of the Shrine property were presented to the then-Board of Supervisors. Hearings and court actions followed.

In 1962, the court finally ordered the return of the Shrine property to the Shrine organization. Fund-raising continued from 1962 until 1968. The dilapidated Shrine, standing only in the strength of a few posts, was moved, repaired and rededicated in 1968 at the present location. In 1996, the Shrine observed its 90th anniversary.

What we're excited about: Wednesday marks the 97th year of Izumo Taisha in Hawai'i.

On every New Year's Day, the shrine has been the focus of activities in the Islands for those who observe this religious, cultural and family practice.

Visits to the shrine begin at midnight New Year's Eve.

The visit has religious and spiritual significance, expressing gratitude for having been blessed with favorable things, and praying for divine guidance and protection for the new year.

Worshippers pray to wipe the slate clean as well as for personal and family health and well-being, prosperity, and good relationships with others.

This visit to the Shrine begins by passing under the torii (gate).

There are many symbolic steps which follow. The washing of hands with running water at the basin represents a spiritual cleansing of oneself. The decoration of bamboo and pine represents the resilience and evergreen freshness welcoming the new year.

The shimenawa (straw rope) hung at the entrance to the Shrine was woven by the elder people of Shimane, Japan, and was displayed at the Honolulu Academy of Arts 1994 exhibition, "Traditional Japanese New Years."

While the head is bowed before the offering box, the priest's assistant waves the wooden wand (gohei) with paper streamers over the head of the worshipper. The wand and white paper and the waving represent purification and blessing.

The worshipper next approaches the booth where a communion of sake (rice wine) is served and ofuda (amulet for the protection of individuals) are obtained.

Other omamori, such as for traffic and special occasions (study or travel), may be obtained.

The old ofuda are usually brought to the Shrine a year later to be burned.

Contact: 538-7778.