Rite of Passage Structure
in the Japanese Accession Ceremonies

by Sam Webster ©1992


The tri-phasic ‘rite of passage’ structure is wide spread on our world, as Arnold van Gennep shows in his classic work of the same name. The purpose of this paper is to examine the structures available in the Japanese Imperial accession ceremonies in the light of this structure. It is hoped that this method will bring to light the import and meaning of its symbols and actions.

The right of passage structure is a three phase model of ritual process as present in a single ritual or in a series of rites. This sequence is referred to under the rubric of separation, transition, and re-incorporation. Van Gennep referred to the transitional period as a threshold, or in Latin a ‘limin,’ and thus the entire series as pre-liminal, liminal, and post-liminal. Separation is the phase in which the person undergoing the ritual, (that is receiving its expression), technically called the liminar, is separated from their former status or state of being. In coming of age rites, for example, this might be done by removing the child from the presence of the mother. Then the liminar is subjected to a series of experiences with the intention of engendering a new status or state of being. This is the transition or liminal phase. The liminar in this phase is neither in the old secure state nor in the new secure state, but is here in a vulnerable in-between ‘place’, on the threshold of the new one. Lastly, the liminar is brought out of the threshold or liminal state, and reintegrated into a new secure status in the context of the society. This would often be celebrated with festival in coming of age rites with the new adults now formally taking up their new adult roles.1

A factor that emerges when the rites involved are a series is recursivness. When the entire series is examined it can be noticed that the rite of passage pattern is present. There are rites of separation, then rites of transition, and then rites of reincorporation. Again, coming of age rites exquisitely embody this pattern (see above). However, when examined individually, each of the sub-rituals may exhibit the same tri-phasic pattern that the whole also expresses. This is probably due to the functional necessity to have a beginning, middle and end to all finite activities. This beginning, middle and end correspond directly to the separation, transition and reincorporation phases of ritual. One must ‘end what one was doing and begin something new’, this is the separation. One must then ‘do what one has decided to do’, this is the transition. Then, ‘one comes to the end and the fulfillment of the doing and stops’, this is the reincorporation. That this pattern occurs in sub-phases of larger cycles makes it recursive. This pattern may appear trivial but argument can be made that the process is ontological and thus present throughout the system, whether it be ritual or the world at large.2 When we examine ritual, by looking for this kind of structuring, we can rapidly assess where we are in a particular rite and what should come before and after. Also, we can look for what level of the structure we are examining since this pattern nests one cycle within another. Being a series of rituals spread across time, we will have recourse to this theory in our examination of the Japanese Imperial accession ceremonies.

The Japanese Imperial accession ceremonies or ‘gotaiten’ consist of three distinct movements separated across months and days. The first action occurs immediately upon the death of the reigning Emperor and is called the ‘Senso’. It is the legal accession to the office of Emperor. The second is the formal presentation and announcement of the new Emperor before the nation and the world. It is called the ‘Sokui-rei’ and occurs in modern times after one year of formal mourning from the time of the Senso. Later still (in the case of the Late Emperor two days later) at what would be the ordinary Tasting of the First Fruits banquet and thus at harvest, as a variation on the seasonal rite, the most important and ancient of the accession rites is held, the ‘Daijo-sai’.3 As a whole we will see how the three rituals comprise an integrated rite of passage and how each of the individual rituals recursivly exhibit the same structure. We will also use this structure to help us understand the meaning and relevance of the many actions and symbols.


The Senso

The first action of the entire series is a negative one, the death of the reigning Emperor. No doubt following a decorus pause after the recognition of death of his father, the Crown Prince acknowledges that he has taken on the “privileges and responsibilities of the position of imperial head of nation and government.”4 The Later Emperor’s death is the separation phase of this small ritual. In a perfectly natural way it thrusts the Emperor-to-be onto the threshold of change, thus separating him from his previous and ‘ordinary’ state as Crown Prince.

Upon the death of the Late Emperor three distinct actions occur which compose the interior three-fold recursive structure of this rite. The first is the acknowledgment mentioned above. The second is the transfer of the Imperial Regalia. The third is the announcement by the chief ritualist of the Court of the transfer of imperial authority before the Shrine of the Regalia Mirror, the ‘Kashiko-dokoro’, before the Sanctuary of the Spirits of the Imperial Ancestor, the ‘Korei-den’, and before the Shrine of the Gods of Heaven and Earth, the ‘Shin-den’ within the precincts of the Imperial Palace of Tokyo. These all occur on the same day and constitute a unit.

The acknowledgment of the new Emperor acts as the sub-phase of separation within the larger phase of transition by being the beginning of the change from one Emperor to another. In this sense it is the reflexive opposite of the death of the previous Emperor. This is embodied in the phrase, “the king is dead, long live the king!” The era of a new Emperor is separating itself from the era of the old Emperor. But the Emperor is not yet fully the Emperor. He does not yet have the Regalia which would mark him as the wielder of imperial authority.

This is a fairly simple ceremony in which the Sword and Jewels, and by extension the Mirror, along with the imperial seal, are presented to the new Emperor and his formal taking possession of them. So long as there is no disputation over this the matter is physically very simple. The Emperor enters a room, the Regalia is brought to him and he leaves with it. Due to the fortunate circumstances surrounding the accession of the Current Emperor of Japan, we have a video recording of this particular ceremony.5 It permits us to see that even in this sub-sub-ceremony, the rite of passage pattern obtains. The video distinctly shows that after the Emperor takes his place before a throne, the Regalia bearers enter the room in procession. They then place the Regalia before the Emperor and bow. The Emperor then bows slightly in acknowledgment. All present then bow in acknowledgment of the Emperor’s possession of the Regalia. The Regalia then are borne out of the room through a door on the opposite side of the room from where they entered and the Emperor then exits.

The difference between the entrance and exit doors points to fact that a change has occurred and transforms the room spatially into a threshold between two states. It can be said that the Regalia before they entered the room were in a pre-liminal state, their old state of ostensibly belonging to the Late Emperor. On entering the room they were in the transitional or liminal state. It is clear that they do not belong to the old Emperor any more but the new Emperor has not yet received them. This is the ambiguous state characteristic of liminality. Finally, when they leave the room, they have entered into their new state of being in the Emperor’s possession, the reincorporation and release from ambiguity.

Not to belabor the point, but this three-fold structure is available in the liminal phase of even this short rite. It is to be found in the three bows: that of the Regalia bearers, the Emperor’s acknowledging bow, and the assembled witnesses acknowledging response. This leads us to two important points about ritual structure.

One is that application of recursivity in rite of passage structure helps us to identify the purpose or goal of the ritual. Usually in any ritual there is some moment obvious to the observer that is the ‘peak’ or high-point of the rite. It does not come with the opening or closing actions, nor is it the exact middle. Rather we must apply recursivity to the structure, expanding Separation, Transition, Reincorporation into Separation, (Transition Separation, Transition Transition, Transition Reincorporation), Reincorporation. It is during the Transition Reincorporation phase that the peak occurs.

In the ceremony of the transfer of the Regalia, the recursive structure is Entrance, (Presentation, Emperor’s Acknowledgment, Witnesses’ Acknowledgement), Exit. Our theory would have us look for the peak or most important part of the ritual to occur during the Transition Reincorporation phase which here is the ‘Witnesses’ Acknowledgement’. This is supported by the fact that the ostensible purpose of the ritual is to formally get the Regalia into the possession of the new Emperor. This does not occur when the Emperor acknowledges receipt of the Regalia, as that only indicates mere possession. The truly full and fulfilling moment of the process comes when every one sees that this man has the Regalia and that he is therefore the Emperor. This is the full formal act of possession. This moment is when everyone bows in recognition of the fact, the moment labeled here the ‘Witnesses’ Acknowledgement’.

This brings us to the second point about the nature of the peak moment of ritual. As can be seen from the above example that the peak moment embodies the successful accomplishment of the purpose of the rite. In this case it is ‘the people acknowledge that you the Emperor legitimately possess the Regalia’. This is both the purpose of the ritual and its meaning. However as a ritual is an experience and not simply a cognitive event, the feeling quality of the fact of success is the actual goal of the rite. This is termed the ‘feeling of success’ in the ritual. In the transfer of the Regalia this came in the Witnesses’ Acknowledgement, when all the witnesses present enacted, embodied, and felt the feeling through their bow and the Emperor’s silent observance.

At the peak of each and all of the Accession rites we will see that there is a moment in which the purpose of the entire rite is embodied as a lived through feeling. If this were not the case, there would be no point in enacting the ritual. One would as well read it silently or watch it as a movie.

The third sub-phase of the Senso does this explicitly. Here the chief ritualist makes the announcement of the transfer of imperial authority to all the Kami most closely associated with the imperial house. This is where the source of that authority is being informed of the change of venue, that there is a New Emperor properly in possession of the Regalia. It completes the sub-phase by embodying the successful transfer of imperial authority.

The third major phase, following in three days the announcement to the Kami, also exhibits this ‘feeling of success’ quality. Here, the nation, present in its chief representatives, is informed of the fact of the accession.6 As the first time the new Emperor communicates in the formal manner, i.e., by Imperial Rescript, the full manifestation of the successful assumption of the role of Emperor is experienced by the people and their Emperor. This concludes the first phase of Separation in the total series.

There are two principle ways in which the forgoing is a rite of separation. The first is of the general nature of death. Death separates a person from the rest of society. Funerals van Gennep lists as classically rites of separation.7 In the case of a monarch, death separates one entire administrative era from another. The natural reciprocal of the death of a monarch is the installation of a new one. And so besides the negative action of a loss, there is the positive action of a gain. Symbolically this is expressed in Japanese culture through the changing of the name of the era8 immediately upon the new Emperor’s accession.


The Sokui-rei

The Sokui-rei forms the second major act of our series and internally shows the marks of the three phases. It takes place after a year of formal mourning. The first is the ‘Shunko-den’ ceremony which is the “worship of Amaterasu-o-mikami and of formal announcement to her of the accomplishment and celebration of the new accession” before Kashiko-dokoro, and occurs on the morning of the Sokui-rei.9 Second is the Ascension to the Throne, the formal Sokui-rei itself, occurring that afternoon in the Shishin-den. Its function is to announce to the nation and the world of the fact and celebration of the accession. The third phase occurs the next day and is the observation of sacred dances by the Emperor and Empress in the Shunko-den before the Kashiko-dokoro.

The Shunko-den internally exhibits our three phases, as we might expect. However as a whole it is an example of separation by divine influx. Each of the element of the rite are focused upon worship or ‘making contact with the locus of the sacred’, in this case the Progenitrix of the nation. Once everyone is ready, robed, and purified with water, the open action begins. Drums and gongs are sounded, the Kashiko-dokoro is opened to the sound of ancient music, and a norito is read by the chief ritualist. (Please note the three fold character of even this opening act.) Next, the Emperor, followed by the Empress and their retinue, take their places within the shrine. Next, the Regalia is placed beside the Emperor. Next, and this is the third sub-phase of the main portion of the rite and as we would expect, the peak, the Emperor “passes to the altar and worships, and reads a proclamation to the Spirit of Amaterasu-o-mikami”.10 At this point we see the process in ritual termed ‘assembling the parts’. The first part is the presence of the Emperor as a person with entourage. Then is added to this the Regalia fulfilling the physical accouterments of being the Emperor. Then is the action phase, wherein the Emperor does what the Emperor does, be the high priest and perform worship in full form. With these three actions all the parts necessary for the proper worship by the Emperor of Amaterasu-o-mikami are present. Holtom notes that this is the only place where the three items of the regalia, or their substitutes, are present in the accession ceremonies, supporting this ‘assembling’ thesis. We will see this again at the Sokui-rei proper.

It is also interesting to note that this worship is an example of a place where the peak is followed by a number of subsidiary actions what fall under its rubric. Here, the Empress, the Royal Family, the retinue, and the foreign dignitaries, following the Emperor have the opportunity to offer worship to Amaterasu-o-mikami. This is essentially an extension of the Emperor’s action, but is subsidiary because the main point is for the Emperor to perform worship. However, the opportunity for corporate worship is not to be missed, and so all follow suit. In ritual analysis it is important to separate out such subsidiary actions so as not to confuse them with the actual main purpose of the rite.

The conclusion of the rite as a whole and the reincorporation of those present back into the world fulfilled by the rite comes as a simple reversal of the opening actions, being the closing of the shrine to music, threefold sound of drums and gongs, and all exiting.

When we turn to the Great Announcement of the Sokui-rei proper we will have need of the ‘assembling the parts’ thesis to make sense of the scene. As a whole everyone and everything present presents an idealized manifestation of the honoring of the monarch and the monarchal relationship with the nation. In the courtyard, the cherry and orange tree represent the loyalty and the homes (or at-home-ness) of the nation.11 The Plume banners bring present the great luminaries of sun and moon. The Crow and Kite banners represent legendary exploits of the imperial house, bringing the glorious past into the present.12 Other banners with the imperial chrysanthemum crest further support the Imperial House as do the honor guard in full battle dress. This idealization can be extended to the Shishin-den itself. Externally it is hung along the edge seen by those attending with a curtain embroidered with a golden sun and clouds of good omen. Internally, it contains the thrones of the Emperor and Empress. These, never used for anything else, and more resembling a pavilion than a chair, can be interpreted as the aura-of-glory that should surround the True Divine Monarch. The assembling of all these things and people including the Royal Family, the dignitaries and the Prime Minister constitute the separation phase of this rite. This is because the this assemblage constitutes the separation out of the ideal in the face of the real, the making present of the sacred-ideal. What is displayed here is not how things are but how the participant feel they ought to be. The Emperor radiates his glorious aura beneath a golden sun and auspicious clouds, attended by the glorious past (the banners) and the vigorous present (the Family and honor guard), before the nation and the nations of the world and even the sun and moon. The natural conclusion of this rite will be the exit of the Emperor, and then the people, and the dismantling of the assemblage, reassimilating the whole ideal array back into the ordinary and the real.

Having disposed of the parenthetical material, we can now approach the core of the rite, the honoring and celebration of the New Emperor. The first phase here is the state change that comes with the entrance of the Emperor. This action galvanizes the attention of all present, it is the moment they have all been waiting for. Traditionally one would not even see the Emperor until he appears in all his glory on the throne itself. He would have entered from the North on a stairway that only he would tread and stepped into the curtained booth of the throne. Attendants would have pulled back the curtains revealing the Emperor, who appeared, as it were, out of nothing. This would have accentuated his divine nature. The present Emperor, however, walked through the Shishin-den in full view before ascending to the throne. This was an interesting stratagem and message to the world, perhaps denying the Emperor’s divinity, maintaining the repudiation of that doctrine promulgated by the Late Emperor. This action was undoubtedly conscious on the part of the ritualists in charge of protocol, but to me it was a distinct loss.

Once ascended to his Throne and revealed, all present make profound obeisance. The Prime Minister, representing the nation, comes forward. The Emperor then speaks, reading an Imperial Rescript. According to Gilday’s translation it was a second13 declaration of the beginning of the Heisei or ‘Peace Achieved’ era, focusing on Japan as a peace loving nation among nations with a distant glorious past and an abundant future ahead.14 This is the second action and the transition sub-phase. It is not the peak of the rite as its purpose is to celebrate the accession, not to simply declare a new era. But, this declaration is an imperial act and so in this case we see the Emperor acting in full imperial form. It is in response to this that the next action occurs which is the ritual act of celebration.

Upon hearing the Imperial Rescript, the Prime Minister recites on behalf of the nation an address of felicitation.15 According to Ellwood this is the ‘Nakatomi no Yogoto’ or Blessing/Congratulatory words of the Nakatomi, or something similar and derived from it.16 This rehearses the Divine Imperial Mandate, a myth of sacred waters and the charge to perform the Daijo-sai, with praises to the Emperor and a request for His blessing by the Kami. This yogoto is properly associated with the Daijo-sai but here is used in a very public way as an ideal blessing of the Emperor. Then the Prime Minister leads the whole nation in a threefold ‘Banzai!’ shout, the classic acclamation to the Unbroken Line. These two acts together constitute the peak of the rite, being the celebration of the accession of the new Emperor. All have the opportunity to ‘feel the success’ of the rite in their actions.

The final phase of the Sokui-rei is the observation of sacred dances before the Shrine of the Regalia, the Kashiko-dokoro, on the next day by the Emperor and Empress. Although my sources do not indicate the nature of the dances, except for their sacrality, by the pattern we have been using we can expect certain features. We can expect there to be formal opening and closing procedures dealing with the shrine itself probably with some variety of worship with either or both food and verbal offerings made. In the core, we can expect the arrangement being some manifestation of divine worship in the form of dance that the Emperor qua High Priest would observe as an act of worship. Thus this action is the embodiment of the Emperor’s actions as a worshiper-celebrant, a feeling of successful accomplishment and a fit prelude to performing the highest rite of Shinto, the Daijo-sai.


The Daijo-sai

The Daijo-sai shows forth excellent examples of progressive recursivity in ritual structure. This kind of recursivity is often used in cases of dealing with the extreme sacred, as in the Daijo-sai, the most sacred rite of Shinto. One manifestation of progressive recursivity is in the series of purifications that everything associated with the Daijo-sai undergoes. To understand this requires a few words about purification as a rite of separation.

Purification by water is in essence cleansing. Water is poured over something so as to remove from it any defilements. By the logic of ritual this statement is equivalent to saying that the object is itself being removed from the defilements. It is being separated from that which is not to be in the presence of the sacred, sometimes termed the profane or the secular. If we use the metaphor that contact with the sacred is like receiving a message, embodied, for example, in the god’s speaking, then it is necessary to remove from the context of the message anything that might garble the message. In other words we are trying to reduce the ratio of the noise to the signal. Any activity that can do this could potentially be employed. The more intense the need to get the message right, the more intense the connection is with the sacred, the greater are the precautions taken to ‘purify’ all concerned. Thus, when contacting the locus of the sacred in its most extreme forms in a particular cult, we see in parallel extreme forms of purification being undertaken. The profane must be separated from the sacred.

This separation is the meaning of the extreme precautions and purifications undertaken in preparation for the Daijo-sai. The people are purified before they act. The land is purified before anything is done on it. It is separated by a fence from the profane. All buildings and utensils are especially made for the rite, and are thus pure. The rice used is picked by purified persons and cleaned and polished, removing any broken grains. The offering cloths are woven by consecrated people in sacred compounds. And so forth…

Another aspect of purification-separation found in the rites comes with the choice of many of the officers and Yuki and Suki provinces by divination. This is an example of separation by divine influx. This has to do with the aroma of sanctity that comes with the element of chance. In it we see the operation of grace, separated from human intention. Here anything can happen and trust is placed in the gods that the right thing will happen. ‘Let the gods choose’ is the mood of this action, and choice is preeminently separation. Being done by the gods it is inherently pure.

On the morning of the Daijo-sai itself the final preparations are made to the ritual enclosure, including the bringing of the offerings to their storehouses inside the compound, the preparation of food and the construction of the ‘Shinza’ couch. This, for the reasons developed above, is a variety of separation by sanctification by the assembling of the parts.

That evening the Emperor takes a lustral bath at the Palace to purify himself. Again this is an act of separation, removing himself from the profane. At the appointed time the Emperor travels in state to the ‘Kairyu-den’ or Purification house where he takes another bath of hot water.17 Here we are seeing the nesting of rites of separation, here as purification, one inside the other in a simple progression, increasing in sanctity. That which was washed is washed again making it even more pure. Next the Emperor puts on a pure white robe called the ‘hagoromo’ identified in “folklore and literature as the garment of ‘tennyo’, the heavenly maidens in the service of the moon.”18 This is clearly the assimilation of the Emperor with divinity or the host of heaven, separating him from ordinary humanity.

The transition phase comes with the various processions. The Emperor travels barefoot on a white runner traditionally assimilated to the descent of the Heavenly Grandson, the Progenitor of the Line. It is as though he is traveling down a beam of light.19 Clearly a symbol of transition. After the Emperor is installed in the outer hall of the Yuki-den, musicians play music, singers sing songs, narrators recite ancient legends.20 A harvest norito is read and the Heir Apparent with other Princes, Great Ministers and high ranking courtiers take their places and give the ‘yahirade’ claps.21 The music and recitations serve to invoke the past and the linage of tradition. The norito invokes the spirit of the season being harvest. I am uncertain as to the exact nature of the clapping, but it certainly has a worshipful function. These three actions taken together constitute the middle sub-phase, and here they are assembling the various temporal and historical connections associated with the rite. They also serve to establish the mood and feelings with which the rite is associated, the ancient line of continuity. The last part of the transition is the food procession to the Yuki food hall. This phase ends when the warning cry goes up and the Emperor enters the inner hall of the Yuki-den.

Now we have come to the core of the ritual, the offering and tasting of the first fruits. The Emperor has seated himself to the east of the Shinza facing southeast towards Ise. This indicates that the offering is being made to Amaterasu-o-mikami. The ‘haizen’ and ‘shindori’ maidens pour water three times for the Emperor to wash his hands with.22 As a rite of purification, it functions as the separation part of this sub-phase. It should be noted that the food is not brought in until this is done and its utensils removed. It is in complete separation from the other parts of the offering. After the washing a prayer is said.23 My sources do not give the text, but I would not be surprized if it was a prayer of confession or of asking for forgiveness in keeping with the purification mood of this portion of the offering.

Next the food is brought in, after the place mats and settings, one for the Emperor, one for the Kami. Each item is placed on the Kami’s setting in turn and then another prayer is said. Again we do not have the text, but I would hazard the guess that it is of the species ‘Come and eat, these are the First Fruits’. This constitutes the transition sub-phase of the offering. Here the Emperor waits, the transitory and uncertain stage, while the Kami eat. Theoretically the Kami could be repulsed by the offering, say if it was done improperly, and so here is where the ambiguity creeps in.

Finally we come to the fulfillment of the offering part of the rite. Here the Emperor actually tastes of his portion of the offering. Ellwood24 and Holtom25 disagree as to how much the Emperor actually eats, but the function remains the same. The Emperor partakes of communion with the Kami. This is the peak of the rite for here in the Emperor eats with the Kami and in doing so is assimilated to the divine. The Emperor is now truly in fact and deed one of the Kami. Here after, he alone needs to taste of the First Fruits for them to be a proper offering to the Kami.

For our purposes here the exit phase is trivial.

Early the next morning, at about two a.m., the entire process is repeated, except that it is done in the Suki-den. The Emperor baths and robes in the Kairyu-den, processes to the Suki-den, and makes the offering, tasting of the food. Why this is done twice is an open question. Holtom indicated that this duplication of rites indicated the connection of the past with the present.26 This was embodied in the movement of the Regalia and seat of office from one place to another. Gilday focused on the weaving of the eastern and western halves of the empire together.27 Ellwood sees it as the embodiment of the mythic situation, sometimes still played out in older villages, where the unknown and wandering representative of heaven would visit the home of a woman worshiping alone at harvest time for feast and orgy. This would be the uniting of Heaven and Earth for the sustenance of life. There are also elements of testing for the true monarch.28 However, I can draw little clear conclusions until it is certain why dual actions are done in other Shinto rites. In many cultures many rites are performed more than once to make firm their efficacy. However, the usual pattern in threefold. The dual then remains uncertain. My principle contribution to this question is that since one thing is done twice there isa connection being made across a disjunction. But as to what these are I can not say.

The reincorporation phase of the Daijo-sai is to be found in the following feasts. Interestingly they also exhibit a triform pattern. First is the presentation of the Regalia and the recitation of the Yogato. This declares the accomplishment of the Daijo-sai and, as mentioned above, rehearses the Mandate of the Kami for Yamato rule.29 This separates this phase from the previous. Two separate feasts are next given corresponding to the Yuki and Suki provinces and during them the Yamato-mai and Ta-mai dances are performed. All this is done with festive solemnity as it is still considered communion with the Kami.30 This is the transition phase as the high degree of structure of ritual procedure is mostly gone but the Kami are still present and so people are still behaving with reserve. At last, one more feast is given which is specifically a ‘gesai’ or ‘breaking sacrality’ feast. Here, the very playful Goshchi dance is performed and with it everyone returns to their normal i.e., not ritually reserved, social character.31 This is plainly the re-incorporation into ordinary life.

Large and complex, it may be difficult to see the outlines of the rite of passage pattern when looking at the whole of this ritual series. In each of its parts, however, we can clearly see its application. To see the whole we need to ask what is the passage across that these rituals effect. To do this we will turn to an apparently trivial symbol to see the change. Due to the good fortune of the video recording made of the present Emperor’s accession ceremonies we can see a distinct change of costume with each phase.32 In the Senso the Emperor appeared to receive the Regalia in a tuxedo. In the Sokui-rei he appeared in traditional robes of yellow hue. In the Daijo-sai he wares the white hagoromo. In the first case the Emperor is a Man receiving the attributes of the office he has inherited, and walks away a King. In the second case he is a King receiving the adulation of this subjects, and walks away with the charge from the yogato to perform the Daijo-sai, to be a priest. In the third case he is a priest offering the first fruits to his god(s) and then eats with his god(s) becoming one with them. What we have here is a process of progressive sacrality. In the first he is Separated from ordinary men to become the king and to begin this process. In the next he becomes the Transition point for the manifestation of the will of Heaven on Earth. This is in the Yogato’s mandate and present in the Chinese conceptions of kingship which the Japanese assimilated.33 Lastly by eating with the Kami he is Incorporated into the host of Heaven, for a time living on earth, and bestowing the benefits of Heaven thereon. Through the rite of passage that is the accession ceremonies the Emperor of Japan becomes a God, regardless of what ever denial is made to the contrary.



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1. van Gennep, p. 11

2. see my “The Rite Process” and “Concrescent Ritual”

3. Holtom, p. 47

4. Holtom, p. 47

5. Gilday, lecture

6. Holtom, p. 48

7. van Gennep, p. 11

8. Holtom, p. 48

9. Holtom, p. 53

10. Holtom, p. 53

11. Holtom, p. 65

12. It is interesting to note that these symbols of conquest were transformed into the more peaceful chrysanthemum for the current Emperor. (Gilday lecture)

13. the first being at the Senso

14. Gilday, lecture

15. Holtom, p. 71

16. Ellwood, p. 53

17. Ellwood, p. 136

18. Ellwood, p. 137

19. Ellwood, p. 136

20. Ellwood, p. 137

21. Ellwood, p. 137

22. Ellwood, p. 138

23. Holtom, p. 108

24. Ellwood, p. 139

25. Holtom, p. 110

26. Holtom, p. 117

27. Gilday, lecture.

28. Ellwood, pp. 73-4, 82

29. Ellwood, p. 142

30. Ellwood, p. 143-4

31. Ellwood, p. 145-7

32. Gilday, lecture

33. Yellow is a color reserved for the Emperor to wear in China, and generally the color of increase.

E-mail the author at webster@concrescent.net.

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