Sitting in the reception hall drinking juice and eating junk food waiting for everyone (15 kids and assorted rellies) to arrive.
The group at the far back are going through reception. Where you hand over your donation. Donation in a very loose sense of the word. The 'suggested' donation is 3000 yen and important men in the village (but not the Shinto Priest) take your money and cross your name off a list. Yeah, that's not quite the way we do donations where I'm from... The gathering in the middle is around the big kero heater. It was freezing!
We were asked not to take photos during the actual blessing. I thought this was to protect the artefacts in the hall or maybe you shouldn't take photos of a priest? Well, I have no idea why we weren't meant to take pictures but neither of those are the reasons as as soon as the official blessing was over the priest himself invited everyone to take pictures and even posed for pictures with the kids.
I was really surprised at the blessing. Surprised because I understood it all. It was delivered in a very sing-song voice but was in decipherable Japanese. A nice change from the Buddhist chanting which has wonderful lilting qualities but tends to make me drousy as it goes on and on and is completely unintelligible to me. The content of the blessing was pretty much bless the children, bless their families and their homes, bless their school and may they all do well at studying and travel safely to and from school. Being non-religious I had been a bit unsure about the whole blessing thing but this seemed innocuous enough and a nice sentiment to boot.
After the blessing the children lined up and those very important men handed each child- an amulet for their school bag, a larger one for the house, a picture book explaining the creationist view of Japan (minus any emphasis on the fecundity and grisly deaths I was relieved to see) a toy and a big bag of junk food. Always good to take your religion with a big dose of chocolate, hey? The Shinto Priest is a father of 4 young kids and always has something for kids who visit the shrine. He even had a little gift for the brothers and sisters of the attendees today. Amy was thrilled!
All blessed and ready for school. Now let's get out of here and go and get warm!