Shinsen (Food and Alcohol Offering to the gods) (神饌)

Shinsen is an offering to shrines and household Shinto altars in Japan. It is also called Mike or Minie.

Shinsen includes the cooked type called Jukusen and the raw type called Seisen. To cook the Jukusen, in principle, only flames (secret fire (imibi)) produced by firestones or maigiri-shiki (style using gimlets (maigiri), ancient tools for making fire) is used.

In shrines, offerings include rice, salt, water, vegetables, bonitos, dried bonito, seaweed, fruits, and seishu or refined sake. Although Shinsen is usually offered in a unglazed vessel called Kawarake (earthenware cup), an abalone shell may be used in some regions.

It is, in principle, served twice a day--morning and evening--but how often it is served a day may vary from region to region.

Naorai refers to Shinsen eaten in a feast after a ceremony. Eating the Naorai not only means getting closer to a god by eating what has been offered, but also proves that things unfit to eat have not been offered.

Strictly speaking, however, the Shinsen offered on the altars is not necessarily served as a Naorai. In some regions, the Shinsen offered on the altars is thrown in Shintaizan (a mountain where the spirit of deity is traditionally believed to dwell) or buried underground even today. This indicates that there were different courtesies or stances toward Shinsen, which have been passed down to the present day.

Special Shinsen

The Shinsen offered in many shrines is Seisen (raw type) today but quite a rare style of Shinsen has been offered in some well known and old shrines or other shrines that have carried on traditional Shinto rituals. Such a rare Shinsen is called Special Shinsen, for convenience, and Jukusen, a cooked type, is mainly offered.. (Because standard Shinsen is considered to be what is defined in the Rules for Ritual Procedures at Shrines, the traditional Shinsen has been seen as "Special," and called so. This is greatly influenced by the reform of the Rules for Ritual Procedures at Shrines as well as the change in meaning of shrines and Shinto after Meiji Restoration.

Examples of Special Shinsen are:

"Osome Goku" in the Kasuga Wakamiya Onmatsuri Festival of Kasuga-taisha Shrine, Nara City, Nara Prefecture
"Mitobiraki Yakusa no Shinsen" and "Mitana Shinsen" in Kasuga Matsuri Festival of Kasuga-taisha Shrine, Nara City, Nara Prefecture
"Isagawa Matsuri Shinsen" in Isagawa Matsuri Festival of Isagawa-jinja Shrine, Nara City, Nara Prefecture
"Hyakumi Onjiki" in Kakissai Festival of Tanzan-jinja Shrine, Tonomine, Sakurai City, Nara Prefecture
"Naijin Shinsen," "Gaijin Shinsen," and "Niwazumi Shinsen" in Aoi-Matsuri Festival of Kamomioya-jinja Shrine/Kamowake-Ikazuchi-jinja Shrine, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture
"Yuki Omike" of Ise-jingu Shrine, Ise City, Mie Prefecture
"Awazu no Goku" in Sanno Matsuri Festival of Hiyoshi-taisha Shrine, Otsu City, Shiga Prefecture
"Aofushigaki Shinji Shinsen" in Aofushigaki shinji of Miho-jinja Shrine, Matsue City, Shimane Prefecture
"Ogozen" in Toro shinji of Iyahiko-jinja Shrine, Yahiko-mura, Nigata Prefecture
"Ontosai Shinsen" in Ontosai Festival of Suwa-taisha Shrine, Suwa City, Nagano Prefecture
"Daikyosai Shinsen" in Daikyosai Festival of Katori-jingu Shrine, Katori city, Chiba Prefecture
Some small shrines in the Kinki region have been handed down and carried on traditional Shinto rituals and services in which Special Shinsen is offered on the altar. The Special Shinsen in those shrines are often the subject of research into the studies of Shinto, folklore, and food culture. Various factors such as the regional industry, financing of shrines, the way of practicing faith, and purposes of Shinto services and rituals can be glimpsed at in each Special Shinsen. Special Shinsen can be regarded as a remarkable religious phenomenon as a food culture developed by the Japanese.

[Original Japanese]