Mekari Shrine was built on the Kyushu side of the Kanmon Strait facing Hayatomo Sound, which is the most narrow and has the fastest current. In the shrine’s Shinto ritual called “Mekari Shinji”, wakame seaweed is cut from the ocean at low tide and offered to an altar in a ceremony conducted in the early morning hours of the first day of the New Year according to the old lunar calendar. The ritual is thought to bring about good luck and has been designated an Intangible Folk Cultural Asset by Fukuoka Prefecture.
On the first day of the New Year according to the old lunar calendar at around 2:30am, three Shinto priests wearing ceremonial robes, formal headware, white Japanese socks, and Japanese sandals made from straw are lead to the ocean by a roughly 3 meter (nearly 10 foot) long torch. There, they immerse themselves in the piercingly cold water and cut stalks of wakame seaweed growing from the stones one-by-one, which they later offer to an altar.
Although originally an unwitnessed event (due to an old wives’ tale speculating that anyone who watched the ritual would go blind), the ceremony was open to spectators after World War II. Famous mystery writer Matsumoto Seicho’s novel “Jikan no Shuzoku” opens at the scene of this ritual, popularizing it around Japan. However, the priests begin preparing for the ritual several days before the actual ceremony, meaning that the entire ceremony cannot be seen and lending it an air of mysticism!
|Address||801-0855 In the Mekari Shrine grounds, 3492 Moji, Moji-ku, Kitakyushu-shi, Fukuoka|
|Access||By bus - From JR Mojiko Station on the Kagoshima Main Line, take the #74 Nishitetsu bus to the “Mekari Jinja Mae” stop.|
|Genre||Traditional Event (Festivals and Events)|