Shikinensai (Periodic Religious Rite) (式年祭)

Shikinensai is a religious rite performed at specified intervals. It is a ritual form observed in festivals and memorial ceremonies for the ancestral spirits at Shinto shrines.

Some prestigious shrines conduct major rites in prescribed years. For example, both Kashima-jingu Shrine and Katori-jingu Shrine perform a large-scale rite of Jinkosai in the year of the Horse which occurs every twelve years. Suwa-taisha Shrine famously celebrates a rite of Onbashirasai at seven (effectively six since a year in which the festival is held is counted as year one) year intervals in the year of Tiger or Monkey. These festivals are regarded to be of the utmost significance, held on a larger scale than annual festivals. Some shrines periodically rebuild shrines (shikinen sengu or the transfer of the deity to a new shrine in prescribed years). If the rebuilding of a shrine is seen as a part of the larger rite, it can be said to be a kind of shikinensai. One of the most famous periodic rites of this kind is Shikinen Sengu at the Ise-jingu Shrine, which is a grand festival where all the shrines are rebuilt every twenty years. Less attention is paid to the fact that a rite of Onbashirasai at Suwa-taisha Shrine also includes the rebuilding of shrines in its rituals. Therefore it can be considered to be shikinen sengu. Periodic rites are not limited to great shrines. They are also held by even some tutelary shrines based on their origins and histories, together with the enshrined deities.

Many memorial ceremonies for the ancestral spirits are also held at specified intervals. Typically, nenki or a Buddhist memorial service is held as a special rite, distinguished from ordinary ones, at certain (and hence irregular) intervals, like one, three, seven, thirteen, seventeen, and twenty-three year intervals.

The Imperial Family also performs a Shinto shikinensai memorial ceremony to commemorate the imperial ancestral spirits at three, five, ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty year intervals, with a subsequent ceremony held every 100 years. Both Nikko Tosho-gu Shrine and Kitano Tenman-gu Shrine, dedicated to the historical figures, celebrate major festivals every 50 years. This can be seen as the amalgamation of the Shinto and Buddhist periodic rites.

Major periodic religious rites

Kashima-jingu Shrine: Ofuna-matsuri
Katori-jingu Shrine
Suwa-taisha Shrines: Onbashirasai
Ise-jingu Shrine: Jingu Shikinen Shosengu
Kitano Tenman-gu Shrine
Nikko Tosho-gu Shrine
Togakushi-jinja Shrine
Kashii-gu Shrine: Rinji Hoheisai (the ceremony of special offerings)
Usa-jingu Shrine: Rinji Hoheisai
Imperial Shikinensai Memorial Ceremonies
Shikinensai Memorial Ceremony for Emperor Jinmu
Shikinensai Memorial Ceremony for the Previous Emperor
Shikinensai Memorial Ceremony for the Three Imperial Ancestors Preceding the Previous Emperor
Shikinensai Memorial Ceremony for the Previous Empress Dowager
Shikinensai Memorial Ceremony for the Deceased Mother of the Emperor
Shikinensai Memorial Ceremony for the Past Emperors from Emperor Suizei to the Four Emperors Preceding the Last.

[Original Japanese]