Friday, October 21, 2016

What is a Masakaki Offering?

a masakaki offering
On October 17, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent a Masakaki offering to the Yasukuni Shrine to celebrate its autumn festival. Although widely reported to be a small tree, it is, as pictured to the right, not a tree. 

masakaki offering includes elements of the sakaki tree, often in plastic, but not the entire tree.

Masakaki (真榊 also まさかき) is a ceremonial article that is placed on both sides of an altar at Shinto rituals. Masakaki is usually decorated with a silk/Nylon flag that has five colors: green, yellow, red, white, and blue — these five colors are about the Theory of Yin-Yang and the Five Elements (陰陽五行説), which represent wood, fire, earth, metal, and water.

There are three Sacred Treasures with the pair of Masakaki (真榊): The rectangle shape represents Shinken (神剣, Sacred Sword), is interpreted as ‘Valor’, the disk-shaped item represents Shinkyo (神鏡, Sacred Mirror), is interpreted as ‘Wisdom’, and the comma-shaped beads represents Magatama (勾玉, Sacred jewels), is interpreted as ‘Benevolence’. [It is said that Emperor Hirohito's worries about what conquering Americans would do with the originals of these sacred objects of Imperial divinity delayed surrender in August 1945.]

The rectangle Shinken (神剣, Sacred Sword) is placed on the left hand side, and the Shinkyo (神鏡, Sacred Mirror) and the Magatama (勾玉, Sacred jewels) are placed on the right-hand side when facing from the front of the Kamidana (神棚).

Sakaki  (榊, also さかき, Cleyera Japonica) is a flowering evergreen tree or bush native to warm areas of Japan, Taiwan, China, Myanmar, Nepal, and northern India. It is a common tree planted in gardens, parks, and shrines. Sakaki is considered a sacred tree in the Shinto religion.

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