Story The Izumo Taisha Kamiari Festival Is the Largest, Quietest Festival in Shimane Celebrating the Gathering of the Gods at Izumo Taisha Shrine By JNTO on 2 November 2022
Izumo Taisha Shrine, also known as Izumo Oyashiro, is considered one of the most important shrines in the Shinto religion. It is touted as the home to Okuninushi no Okami, the creator of the land of Japan, who is also known as the god of en-musubi, representing the connections people have with their family and friends, loved ones and acquaintances.
The shrine is instantly recognisable by a gargantuan straw rope pattern hanging on its front, known in Japanese as shimenawa. The Izumo Taisha Shrine is purported to be the largest in Japan; it is 13.5 metres in length, eight metres at its thickest part, and weighs a staggering five tons.
Kamiarizuki and the Arrival of Many Gods to Izumo Taisha Shrine
The 10th month in the lunar calendar is known in Izumo as kamiarizuki, the month of deities. In contrast, everywhere else in Japan during this period is known as kannazuki or the month without any deities. The 11th to the 17th day of the 10th month sees the Izumo Taisha Kamiari Festival taking place at Izumo Taisha Shrine. Lasting for seven days, this festival is believed to draw the most important guests to its land - all the gods in the Shinto religion - to its grounds.
The festival starts with the kami-mukae-sai on the 10th day of the 10th lunar month. This ceremony, held at Inasa Beach after sunset, welcomes all the deities to Izumo. Bonfires are lit up, and after a short ceremony, the shrine priests proceed to escort the gods from the beach to the grounds of Izumo Taisha Shrine, where there is a special area that temporarily holds the gods.
The gods are said to hold meetings during their time at Izumo Taisha Shrine to discuss the destinies of the people for the year ahead. This also brings many people to Izumo Taisha Shrine, where they gather and pray for good luck in various aspects of their lives, be it love, wealth, family or health. Japanese sake (or nihonshu as they call it in Japan) is also offered by local sake brewers to the gods during their stay.
The Karasade-sai is held in the hall of worship to express gratitude to the gods who have come from all over Japan and to send them on their way from Izumo Taisha Shrine. The ring of the priest’s high voice shouting ‘Otachi-!’ indicates the deities leaving Izumo Taisha Shrine.
A festival as grand as this requires visitors to keep their voices to a minimum, in respect of the time-honoured traditions that have passed the grounds of Izumo Taisha Shrine.
To complete your experience at Izumo Taisha, get a taste of Izumo’s flavours with the warigosoba. This dish is served at Sobadokoro Tanakaya (そば処田中屋), a restaurant located right at the entrance to the shrine, as sanshoku warigosoba. It has three separate servings of cold soba noodles, each with a different topping: tororo (grated Japanese yam), an onsen tamago (soft-boiled egg) and agedama (tempura bits).
As the main festival at Izumo Taisha Shrine, the Izumo Taisha Kamiari Festival is a highly respected tradition not just in Shimane Prefecture but also in the whole of Japan.