Kayuura (Porridge Fortunetelling) (粥占)

Kayuura is an annual fortune-telling, where people's fortunes for the year are read using Kayu (porridge). It is conducted as a festival in shrines around the country. It is mainly conducted on the Lunar New Year, when red bean Kayu is offered to the gods, and the fortunes told include information about the year's weather and whether the harvest will be good or bad.

According to the "Nenjugyojihisyo (descriptions of annual events)" the custom came from China and originated in a legend that, by offering red bean Kayu to Chihyu (a god of Chinese myth) or a woman ghost of the Koshin clan, then eating it, people could escape their curses and avoid evil spirits throughout the year.

There are several methods of Kayuura, but the major one involves using a stick to stir up boiling Kayu, then reading the future by seeing how many rice grains adhere to the stick. Other methods include simmering small bamboo tubes and rice in a pan and, after the rice is boiled, cutting the tubes to see how many rice grains entered them (in this method, twelve tubes are used to see the climate of each month, or the same number of tubes as the kinds of crops in the area to see the future of each crop), or simply leaving the Kayu for a few days and telling the future by how the mold grows on it.

This used to be done, not in shrines, but in village communities or the main branches of families all over the country; however, most of these ceremonies are no longer performed, and only those performed as shrine rituals remain.

In Suwa Taisha Shrine Shimosha Harumiya, reed tubes are put into a big pan of red bean Kayu at the Kayu boiling house on the evening of January 14th, simmered through the night, and offered to the gods on the morning of the 15th; after the festival, the tubes are broken open, and the amount of Kayu in the tubes is measured to see whether predetermined kinds of crops will have a good or bad harvest.

The reed tubes are about 16cm in length, and a total of 42 tubes (although the number of tubes changes every year) are braided together like a blind with hemp, rolled up and put in the pan.

Each tube is modeled after a type of crop; one of the tubes is broken on the shrine floor, after which the ranking of crops is called in accordance with the gods' fortune telling, and the Shatei (lower-rank Shinto priest) repeats it loudly to the audience gathered in front of the alter. After all 42 kinds are called and the ceremony is finished, the list is hung in front of the shrine.

[Original Japanese]