Chokusai (勅祭)

Chokusai is a religious service at a shrine where imperial messengers are sent by the Emperor. Particularly in the modern ages, the term "chokusai-sha shrine" is used for shrines where imperial messengers are regularly sent. In many cases, it is the regular festival of the shrine. The imperial messengers assigned are in principle, the Shoten, who attend to religious services in the Imperial Court.

Chokusai with special content that refer to old styles that preserve traditional ceremonies, are called 'san chokusai.'
Examples of san chokusai are; the Kamo-matsuri Festival (Aoi-matsuri Festival) of the Kamo-jinja Shrine, Iwashimizu-sai Festival of the Iwashimizu Hachiman-gu Shrine, and Kasuga-matsuri Festival of the Kasuga-taisha Shrine. Imperial messengers, wearing old ceremonial court dress, following customs from the pre-Edo period are sent, and people who also dress according to ancient fashion attend as 'representations' of accompanying government officials of the Overseeing Department, and others. These people, along with the priests of the shrine, perform the service according to the ceremony program. However, various changes are taking place, such as in the Iwashimizu-sai Festival, where Iwashimizu hojoe with strong characteristics of syncretism of Shinto and Buddhism is being inherited, and is increasingly leaning towards Shinto. The costumes are also gradually differing from ancient fashion as they are repeatedly renewed.

In addition, regular festivals at the Hikawa-jinja Shrine in Ichinomiya, Musashi Province, where the capital is, and Kashihara-jingu Shrine, Meiji-jingu Shrine, Heian-jingu Shrine, Yasukuni-jinja Shrine, etc. which are heavily protected by the country, are also chokusai to which imperial messengers are sent. At these chokusai, imperial messengers use kimono and ancient head-dress (similar to the 'formal dress' defined by Jinja Honcho (The Association of Shinto Shrines)), and their conduct is mostly fixed.

[Original Japanese]