Norito (Shinto prayer) (祝詞)

Norito is a Shinto ritual. The detailed explanation is given below.

The word 'shukushi' refers to congratulations. In many cases, it is a euphemism for a speech at celebrations.

Norito refers to Shinto prayers, through which people pay tribute to the virtue of gods and show their reverence for deities, with the intention of asking gods for blessing and of fulfilling their wishes. In general, Norito are chanted by Shinto priests in a special intonation, and Norito are characterized by their unique writing style, diction, and fonts.


The belief that the word 'Norito' comes from the word 'noritogoto' seems to have been the most popular one until recently.

The word 'noritogoto' refers to the letters (a document in which people write their wishes to gods and their reverence for deities) that are chanted by believers such as Shinto priests to present to enshrined deities the meanings and objectives of a religious service ("sojo-tai," or report to superiors style). In ancient times, 'noritogoto' also referred to the words presented by gods to people who assembled at a religious service ("senmei-tai," or a grand style written in an imperial-edict manner). Because the prefix 'nori' in 'Norito' can have connotations of declarations to subordinates, it is possible to assume that the senmei-tai style Norito can be the quintessence of Norito.

Shinobu ORIKUCHI discovered using ancient Norito that there existed two types of ancient Norito: the norito type, in which a sentence ended with the phrase "to-noru (nou)" (declare); and the yogoto type, in which a sentence ended with the phrase "to-mousu" (humbly report). ORIKUCHI analyzes that the words for blessings presented by people of superior ranks to subordinates were Norito, namely, '宣り言 (norito)' (declaration of congratulations) whereas the words, with which subordinates admired superiors and promised their obedience to superiors as a sign of thanks, were 'Yogoto (寿詞)' (tributes).

In other words, it can be assumed that prayers that belonged to the so-called Yogoto (tribute) genre by ORIKUCHI's definition happened to be called 'Norito.'
Even today, it is not easy to decide which one of the above-mentioned two theories about the origin and meanings of the word 'Norito' is closer to the truth.

The examples of the most ancient sentences that were named as 'Norito' are 29 pieces of prayers printed in the eighth volume of "Engishiki" (ancient books for codes and procedures on national rites and prayers) and 'Nakatomi-no-yogoto' printed in "Taiki " (diary of FUJIWARA no Yorinaga) Bekki (additional volume) authored by FUJIWARA no Yorinaga, thus totaling 30 pieces. Those pieces are priceless documents that can date back to the time prior to the Nara period and important documents that can communicates the world of ancient Norito to modern people.
The following are 29 pieces of Norito printed in the "Engishiki"

Kinensai (prayer service for a good crop)
Kasugasai Festival
Hirose-no-ohoimi-no-matsuri Festival
Tatsutano Kazenokami-no-matsuri Festival
Hirano-matsuri Festival
Kudo-furuseki (Festival)
Minazuki-no-tsukinami (Festival)
Mikado-matsuri Festival
Yamatonofumiimikibenotachi wo tatematsurutoki no ju
Chinka-sai Festival
The Michiae-matsuri Festival
Daijo-sai festival (a festival to celebrate the succession of an emperor)
Mitama wo iwaido ni shizumuru matsuri Festival
Ise-daijingu Shrine
Kisaragi-no-toshigoi (Festival)
Toyouke-no-miya Shrine
Uzuki-no- kamumiso-no-matsuri
Toyouke-no-miya onajiki matsuri
Kannamesai Festival
Itsukinohimemiko wo irematsurutoki
Ohokaminomiya wo utsushimatsuru norito (prayer for relocation of the shrine of the great diety)
Tatarigami wo utsushiyaru matsuri (ceremony of sending out tatarigami demon)
Morokoshi ni tsukai wo tsukawasutoki mitegura wo tatematsuru
Izumo kokuso kamuyogoto (ritual greetings of Izumo kokuso, the high priest of Izumo Taisha Shrine)
Pieces 1 to 7 are Norito for rites and festivals held by each shrine while pieces 8 to 15 for court rituals and piece 16 for Ise-jingu Shrine; pieced 17 to 20 are supplemental prayers. As characteristics of these pieces, the sojo-tai style, in which sentences end in 'to mousu (hakusu),' account for the majority of the pieces while the senmei-tai style, in which sentences end in 'to noru (nou),' are used for Kinensai, Minazuki-no-tsukinami-no-matsuri (Oharae), Daijo-sai festival, and Kannamesai festival. This suggests that the origins and forms of the latter were different from those of the former.

Depending on the purpose, there are a variety of Norito, and even today, the so-called "Yamato kotoba" (the ancient or primordial Japanese language) has been used for Norito. Basically, Norito is created every time when a rite or festival is convened, but it is often the case that for certain kinds of rites and festivals (for example, "Hatsumiyamode" (Rite of passage for the new born) and wedding ceremonies), the same Norito is used. The same Norito is also used for 'harae kotoba,' words read by the priest in "Shubatsu"(a Shinto purification rite) implemented before rites and festivals, and for 'Oharae no kotoba,' words used for Oharae.

Today, many Norito samples and templates are available. It is all right to use samples as a reference when creating Norito, but some critics point out that too much dependence on samples and templates can lead to fixed expressions of Norito, which misses the original objectives of Norito.

When a Shinto priest chants Norito (at Shinto shrines under the umbrella of the Association of Shinto Shrines), he takes a seat and bows twice before chanting Norito and bows twice and clap hands twice (Shinto) and bow once after chanting them. Of course, this is not the only allowable etiquette.

[Original Japanese]