Japanese Calligraphy by Hiromi Shinozaki.
Sakura (cherry blossoms) blooming under the night sky at the peak of Sakura season. The Aofushigaki Ritual is held during Sakura season, every early spring.
Overlooking the Miho Bay in Mihonoseki, Izumo province, an ancient port town closely associated with mythology and located on the eastern tip of the Shimane Peninsula, in the Sea of Japan.
In the words of Japan’s first Nobel laureate, Hideki Yukawa: “Mihonoseki is one of the few places where you can find the roots of the Japanese soul.”
The night before the Aofushigaki Ritual at Miho Shrine. The man who is responsible for the lantern touch keeps the fire alive during the ceremony.
Surrounded by the rich forest of the Shimane Peninsula and overlooking Miho Bay, Miho Shrine is the head of more than 3,000 dedicated to Ebisu, divinity of the sea, merchants and music.
This small town of Mihonoseki is home to many rituals. Two of the most important ones are based on stories in the Kojiki (“Record of Ancient Matters”), the oldest existing record of Japanese mythology.
Mrs. Yanai worships at the Aofushigaki Ritual every year.
Mt. Daisen (大山), a sacred mountain and a residence of Shinto deities, seen across Miho Bay.
Ujiko people during the Aofushigaki Ritual. Ujiko are dedicated to the belief in and worship of the shrine and they play a crucial part in the rituals at Miho Shrine. This status has been passed down through the generations for hundreds of years.
Kannushi (Shinto priest) zouri sandals lined up inside the shrine.
Reflection on a koi pond. Koi fish symbolizes good fortune and luck.
Senkou hanabi (線香花火), traditional Japanese fireworks, sparking my childhood memories.
“Sasara” boy in the Aofushigaki Ritual.
Hina-ningyō (雛人形), a set of ornamental dolls that represents the Emperor and Empress in traditional costumes of the Heian period, is displayed at a ryokan hotel in Mihonoseki. It is for Hina-matsuri (雛祭り), also called Girl’s Day in Japan—a celebration to pray for the health and happiness of young girls on March 3rd.
Hanaikada (花筏), floral raft, at the end of Sakura (cherry blossom) season.
Tomodo girls and Ujiko during the Aofushigaki Ritual.
A demon mask watches over the Miho Shrine.
Umbrellas lined up at Miho Shrine.
A ritual participant waits outside during the ceremony.
Dead lotus flowers floating in a pond.
A Haiku from Hideki Yukawa—Japan’s first Nobel laureate—appears on a shoji door at a ryokan hotel in Mihonoseki.
Sun setting over Lake Shinji (宍道湖) in Matsue, Izumo province. Matsue is my father’s hometown, my ancestors’ resting place and the site of many rituals.
The night before the Aofushigaki Ritual at Miho Shrine. A Kannushi (Shinto priest) watches the preparation of the ritual.
For the Japanese, Sakura is an enduring expression of life, death and renewal. It is a timeless metaphor for the acceptance of the transience of all life.