Shihohai (四方拝)

Shihohai is the name of ceremony held at Imperial Palace in the beginning of the year.


During the early Heian period, this ceremony originated in the Imperial Palace and spread to lords and ordinary people as a wish to be in full harvest and a perfect state of health by praying in various directions no matter what the year might bring, but as time went by the ceremony remained simply as a court function.

Before the Meiji Period
It is said that the ceremony started in Emperor Saga's reign, but it was established in Emperor Uda's reign as an official ceremony, the oldest record of Shihohai being held on January 1, Kampyo 2, was in "Uda tenno gyoki" (the diary of the Emperor Uda).

Subsequently, although the ceremony was interrupted with the Onin War, it started again in 1475, running from the reign of Emperor Go-Tsuchimikado to that of Emperor Komei; the ceremony was held in the front garden of the Palace of Heian (currently Kyoto Imperial Palace), Seiryo-den.

On January 1, torano koku (at about four o'clock in the morning), the Emperor, wearing Korozen no go-ho at Ryoki-den, came to the east garden of Seiryo-den and prayed for his Zokusho (one of the stars of the Big Dipper, which is said to have destiny depending on the year in which the person was born) and spirits in every direction, or the direction of his parents' Imperial Mausoleum, whereupon he wished for the peace and security of the nation and good harvests for the coming year.

The chanting words on this ceremony are described in 'Dairi Gishiki' and 'Go-ke Shidai.'

According to these materials, it is mentioned as Zokuko shichu kado ga shin, Dokuma shichu kado ga shin, Kiyaku shichu kado ga shin, Goki rokugai shichu kado ga shin, Hyakubyo joyu, Shoyoku zuishin, Kyukyu nyoritsu ryo.

After the Meiji Period
After the Meiji period, it was regulated by Ordinance No. 1 of Koshitu Rei (Imperial Household), Koshitu Saishi Rei (Imperial Household Religious Rites) (1908). Prior to World War I, it was called Shiho-setsu and was conducted as a national ceremony, being considered one of the biggest of four major ceremonies held on national public holidays.

After the war, the ceremony was continued along with Koshitu Rei (Imperial Household) ordinance, although this law was eventually abolished.

After the war, the ceremony's name was changed to 'Shihohai' and it was conducted as a private function of the Imperial Family.

On January 1, at about 5:30 in the morning, the Emperor, wearing a traditional formal court dress called Korozen no go-ho, would enter a building constructed in the southern garden of Shinka-den, which is located west of the Three Shrines in the Imperial Court, whereupon he would bow toward the direction of two shrines--Ko-tai jingu Shrine and Toyouke Dai-jingu Shrine of Ise-jingu Shrine--and pray to spirits in various directions.

The Imperial mausoleums and Gods the Emperor prays for are, the Ise-jingu Shrine, Tenjin Chigi/all gods, Emperor Jimmu, former three Emperor's mausoleum (Fushimi Momoyama Imperial Mausoleum of Emperor Meiji, Musashi Imperial mausoleum of Emperor Taisho, Musashi Imperial mausoleum of Emperor Showa), Ichi no miya Shrine in Musashi Province (Hikawa-jinja Shrine), Ichi no miya Shrine in Yamashiro Province (Kamowake ikazuchi-jinja Shrine and Kamo mioya-jinja Shrine), Iwashimizu Hachimangu Shrine, Atsuta-jingu Shrine, Kashima-jingu Shrine and Katori-jingu Shrine.

The origin of Shihohai
There are different theories that it originated in the Way of Yin and Yang or it came from China, but there are no written materials to show the exact history of how it started.

It is believed to be true that Shihohai is a cultural ceremony that came from China and was changed to suit the Japanese culture while retaining various aspects of Chinese culture, since the Way of Yin and Yan originally came from China and has been systematized, including Chinese studies, thinking, magic and rituals.

[Original Japanese]