Last November 25, my second son and I were invited by Paul, to the Niiname Sai (新嘗祭) which he organized. Together, we gave thanks for the bountiful harvest from the previous year and prayed for fruitfulness in the coming year. We offered sake (神酒) to the gods and ate ambrosia (神饌).
The Niiname Sai is a Japanese harvest ritual which has been performed since ancient times as it appeared in the Nihon-shoki (日本書紀). The Nihon Shoki is one of the oldest chronicles of Japan. It has been enshrined in the Imperial palace since ancient times as the most important religious service in the Imperial court; and remains there until this day. However, after the Second World War, the General Headquarters of the United States changed the Labor Thanksgiving Day and separated it from the Imperial event linked with Shintoism. It made me a little happy that the event which Paul calls the ceremony Niiname Sai, the original Shinto name of the event, rather than Labor Thanksgiving Day.
I have many great friends in the Netherlands, one of them is Paul De Leeuw; he is not only the first non-Japanese Kanushi(神主) - a Shinto priest in the Netherlands, but also in the whole of Europe. He finished his studies at the Yamakage Shinto School in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka-ken, Japan in 1981. He then became the first foreign Kannushi to receive the license to perform traditional ceremonies and became an instructor of Shinto exercises.
According to Paul, many people work hard to make money; which they spend to buy material things. Governments and multinationals entice people to buy and consume more and more. This is because they believe it is good for economic growth. And for production, many natural resources are needed. However, the Shinto's way of thinking opens the mind to the outside world, striking a balance between material and mental. He added that the Shinto way is to receive all of nature's gift wholeheartedly. But the western way only wants to extract as much as it could from nature, since it will be more profitable for them. And this is done without gratitude and respect for all that they have taken away. Unfortunately, this will eventually destroy harmony and balance in nature. I also believe that what we are experiencing with nature and our environment problems is happening, since we as a nation are enjoying the fruits of man's greed and materialism. We have all the things that can make our lives easy and comfortable. But wouldn't we feel less comfortable living in a world where the environment is being polluted and destroyed? As Paul would say, "Economic growth unexpectedly did not lead to the growth of happiness. It might be better to turn halfway, and find a way, more in balance with nature, and the powers of life.”
I am very happy that Paul embraces the Japanese culture so much; it is not easy for him to be a Kannushi in the Netherlands and to be one in a foreign country; it is such a difficult task beyond my imagination and as a Japanese, I have great appreciation and respect for him.
Paul is presently looking for a Japanese Miko(巫女) - a shrine maiden for the Hatsumode(初詣). The event will be on January 1st, between 3 to 6 PM. The ceremony will be between 4 and 5 PM. Her tasks are simple, she and Paul will have a rehearsal on December 30 at Hotel Okura and will meet in their Jinja in order to check the costume and to go through the process. If she is a minor, she must be accompanied by her parents. Paul can pay a small fee and he will provide the attire for the Miko. You may see some pictures at this web site.
I will be glad to answer any questions or inquiries in regard to this. The most important thing is that the person chosen will enjoy and embrace being a Miko; they will have to sit still for periods of time so be prepared. If you or someone you know may be interested, please get in touch with me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We offered Sake which my husband brought from Japan. It was wrapped with the cloth that came from my late grandparents. The cloth is special because it was a gift from them.
I could not take a picture of the most important part of ceremony. I did not feel like taking pictures because I felt it was disrespectful. This ceremony is only for invited guests.
I accidentally sat on the floor when I unwrapped the sake from the cloth wrapper. Paul also sat and we started a conversation. I feel very happy about it.
Bas van Buuren. I met him at the IDP. He is very familiar with Aikido.
My middle son sitting before the altar.
Paul put our sake on the altar. I am deeply honored.
Paul shared his experience with shinto during PechaKucha Japan Night in Leiden last day.
Every year on New Year's Day, he has the Hatsumode - the practice of visiting a shrine during the New Year at Hotel Okura Amsterdam. This was a scene of Hatsumode in 2017.
They have celebrated Dutch Setsubun Sai(節分祭) with a Grand ceremony and a fire ceremony. Fire connects Heaven and earth. This picture was taken on March 22, 2015.
Nagoshi Harae(夏越の祓): Every summer he has celebrated the beginning of the Summer Season. All participants have walked through the circle of grass in order to be purified.
A scene from last year's IDP Amsterdam posted by Shinto in Europe. Paul is the man at the left, dedicating the prayer. I was in charge of a program entitled Tea for OSOW with my sons.
( https://www.facebook.com/ShintoEurope/photos/a.249459791765849/1649862115058936/?type=3&theater )
Wedding Ceremony can be celebrated in the Holland Yamakage Shrine for the wedding couple and their respective family. Main feature of the wedding ceremony is the moment when bride and groom pour sake for each other in three different cups, which represent heaven, earth and mankind.