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Why is there sake at shrines?

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Since the main ingredient of sake is rice, sake has long been strongly connected with agricultural deities. As with many cultures, Japanese people used to bring offerings in spring to pray for a good harvest, and in autumn to show gratitude for the harvest.

Nowadays, individuals and company representatives often bring sake to shrines at the end of the year or the beginning of January to pray for good health or good fortune.

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Sake forms an important part of these offerings. The traditional belief is that after the offering, sake is consumed by the god (although nothing of the sake is changed physically) and after that, the sake receives the power of the god. In

Japanese it is called shin-i (神威).  Shrines often offer this “transformed” sake to people coming to the shrine for good luck. This transformative consumption is called “Kokurei” in Japanese. It applies not only to sake, but also to other crops such as rice, and fruit.

 When you visit shrines in Japan, you will often see a large container of sake. The container is called “kazaridaru” which means “decorated barrel”.

 Given the importance of sake as part of shrine offerings, this prominent display of any particular sake is not unexpected. Contrary to common belief, the kazaridaru isn’t used to age sake. (There is a barrel which is used for ageing or giving a cedar flavor to the sake, but it is not the kazaridaru.) 

In fact, the Kazaridaru generally doesn’t contain any sake: it is provided by sake breweries as a form of product placement. Instead of filling the entire Kazaridaru ,sake breweries often offer sake in a smaller receptacle.

 

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