Norai (Feast) (直会)

Naorai is an event that is held at the conclusion of a festival at the shrine where everyone who assembled for the Shinto ritual is made to drink sacred sake and eat the sacred food (a ritual to share drink and food). Although it is generally considered to be a closing party after a ritual, the naorai is actually one of the constituent elements of the ritual.

It is the same act carried out by people who eat food and drink sake that are offered to their ancestors' grave after paying a visit to the grave. Sharing the food and drink taken by the divine spirits is an act to strengthen the connection with divine spirits, to be given the power of these spirits, and to expect their protection. It also proves that the food and alcohol offered to the gods are edible. The word "naorau" is used as a verb when a person receives mochi or other food from a shrine. It has a similar meaning to "naorai."

Jinja saishiki' (Rules for Ritual Procedure at Shrines) by the Jinja Honcho (Association of Shinto Shrines) specifies that the naorai should be performed at any kind of religious festival or ritual. The book also defines a specific procedure of the naorai. Some rituals have their original procedures of the naorai derived from a tradition.

In many cases, vegetables and fish of the season are offered to the god and then cooked for the naorai. That is why the naorai dishes of some shrines are the same as their local cuisine.

In some rituals, worshippers have a meal with the god. In most rituals, however, the fixed offerings are served and therefore are not not considered to be naorai.

The word 'naorai' is usually thought to derive from 'nahoriahi.'
It means to the end of saikai (a period of purifying body and mind for ritual) and returning to everyday life. Shinobu ORIKUCHI stated a theory that 'naorai' would refer to the ritual to worship the naobi no kami (god of purification) at the conclusion of a ceremony, as an apology for any offences committed during the ceremony.
Another interpretation identifies the first character with the idea of sitting down before a table set for a meal, and the second character with the idea of 'all meeting together.'
It states that, if naorai means 'after the conclusion of the ceremonies, people partake of the sacred sake and food offerings presented to the god,' then it does not have any element or meaning of ending purification.

[Original Japanese]