The ‘Kazaridaru’ Of Meiji Jingu

Lining either side of the path leading to the Meiji Jingu shrine in Tokyo, are neatly arranged stacks of wine barrels.

These (empty) decorative sake containers known as Kazaridaru, commemorate the sake houses – represented by the National Sake Brewers Association – that supply the shrine (s) with Omiki or sacred ritual wine, an essential component of Shinto purification rituals. The offering and consumption of which is said to symbolise union with the enshrined deity.
DSC_0462 copyThe Kazaridaru came about when the supply of wine to the shrines from the nearly 2000 breweries far exceeded demand. Since the religion as well as traditional society frowned upon waste, a symbolic Kimochi (gesture) of donating an empty barrel along with the requisite bottle or two of the brew was devised for ceremonial display.
DSC_0465 copy
Directly opposite is an equally large stack of Bourgogne wine barrels! A sign in English explains their presence here thus:

“Provenance of the Bourgogne Wine for Consecration at
Meiji Jingu. By gaining the good and rejecting what is
wrong, it is our desire that we’ll compare favourably
with other lands abroad
– Poem by Emperor Meiji

I was surprised to learn that sake isn’t traditionally stored in wooden barrels. The liquor is transferred to the barrels just before consumption to impart flavour and most times, for ceremonial effect!

While on the subject of Sake, below are a few images from our visit to the Funasaka Shuzo brewery in Takayama:

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Madhu is an Interior designer turned travel blogger on a long sabbatical to explore the world. When not crafting stories on The Urge To Wander, she's probably Tweeting @theurgetowander or sharing special moments on

76 thoughts on “The ‘Kazaridaru’ Of Meiji Jingu

  1. What a diverse traveller you are, with so many fascinating details to go with your splendid photos. I really enjoy these themed challenges, thinking about what I’d post if I had posting time to spare! This week, probably the Wilanòw sarcophagus and mausoleum. But I post them on Monday for another purpose.

    1. I don’t either Lynne 🙂 And I too drooled over those ceramic jars. My sister managed to pick up a tiny one in Tokyo.

  2. This is really interesting Madhu…I had no idea about this! Are you in Japan currently?

  3. Quite an interesting place. We were in Tokyo a few weeks ago and I was thinking of going here but we only have 24 hours. Next time. Great photos. 🙂

    1. Thanks David. The Meiji Jingu afforded us glimpses into many fascinating traditions, including a complete Shinto wedding ceremony that I featured soon after my return.

  4. Great Madhu, again! I’d love to visit Japan, you are lucky.
    Living in france and loving wine, I loved the little fact about the Bourgogne wine. They were right to import some good wine! 😉
    Looking forward to the next, keep it up.

    1. Thank you Mariska. Agree with you about the wine. The Japanese have mastered the art of balancing the best from Western cultures with their own traditions. I was indeed lucky to catch a glimpse of some of those traditions, however fleeting.

    1. I did of course, even brought a bottle home for hubby. Can’t say I particularly liked it, although a sweet variety I tried in Takayama was quite nice. I am not a fan of Ouzo or Raki either Marina 🙂

  5. It never fails Madhu. I come here and always find myself leaving with a new awareness of life in a part of the world I have not seen.

  6. Tradition and how it relates to everyday life is always fascinating – and usually surprising, like introducing foreign wine into an ancient ritual. I must say, though, some of those blue and white barrels and jars keep beckoning me back, whispering … some things seem to make me uncomfortably avaricious!

    1. Me too, although we are on a de-cluttering spree and have vowed to steer clear of shopping when we travel! But the ones I wanted were way too expensive Meredith. My sister on the other hand is a compulsive collector 🙂

  7. Another interesting post, Madhu, and I enjoyed the write-up as much as the pictures. I enjoy Sake and can put away a few bottles at every Japanese meal. I prefer them hot.

    Trust your Sunday is unfolding well,

    1. A few bottles??? Eric I am in awe! I was knocked out after a (rather generous) sampling! 🙂
      Sunday was lovely and relaxing, thank you Eric. Wish you a great week ahead.

  8. I really enjoyed visits made to Japan during my working years. Most of my travel there saw me in those antiseptic business high rise offices, but I did get time to visit some of the sites like these and travel the breath taking countryside. Beautiful place to visit but very expensive. I remember the bus travel to Narita Airport from either Tokyo or Yokohama. It takes a very lengthy traffic jam crawl out passed suburbs to pick up speed for the rest of the journey.

    1. It is expensive no doubt. But the rupee was stronger against the Yen when we went, so the conversions felt good for a change 🙂

  9. I suppose ceramic jars are the original traditional containers for sake, aren’t they? Meiji led the country towards openness to the world that it had not seen for a very long time, and to see the legacy of this in the form of sake and wine is somewhat heartwarming, I must say. 🙂

    1. I think so Bama. But I believe it is the norm during large celebrations to ceremoniously break open a barrel that needs to be pre ordered! I was surprised to see the French wine alongside the Sake barrels as well, but that is Japan for you! 🙂

  10. Now this i did not know about sake. about barrelss , i thought it was made in barrels only

    lovely pictures 🙂

  11. This is wonderful, Madhu. You skillfully brought your visit to the sake brewery with the ceremonial kazaridaru together in one post – I have no doubt that many visitors to Meiji Jingu would barely cast a passing glance at the barrels. The modern twist with the Bourgogne doesn’t surprise me though… the Japanese have happily adopted baumkuchen (from Germany) and glassware (from Murano)! And you’re right, those beautiful ceramic jars are just begging to be taken home. 🙂

    1. Thanks James. Those barrels are hard to miss, but you are right, few stop to read the signs or learn about their history. The jars especially in that setting in the wood lined brewery were exquisite. But too heavy and way too pricey to take home.

  12. Another thumbs up for the ceramic jars Madhu but I’m afraid the sake ( 😦 ) would have to go to a better home! A lovely tour!

  13. Thank you Madhu, great post, much to learn from. Japan is on my list, probably next year. How long did you stay there, other posts from other places in Japan coming up from you??? Looking forward to it!

    1. Thank you Cornelia. I visited in October 2012 for a couple of weeks. A search for Japan should throw up most of them, or you could check the link to my personal picks on the right for a shorter list.

  14. A great take on this week’s theme, Madhu. Those sake barrels sure do out shine the wine barrels, which I always thought of as beautiful.

  15. Such pretty sake containers, Madhu. I don’t think I’ve ever drank it. A trip to that interesting looking brewery is obviously called for. 🙂

  16. One of my favorite photographs I took in Japan is a closeup of the sake barrels at the shrine in Izumo. The blowup hangs in our living room, and baffles and amazes people who visit. After I tell them what it is, they often have questions, to which I have actually no answers. Until now. Thank you, Madhu, now I know all and will be able to explain all! You are a superb researcher and journalist!

  17. Very informative posy Madhu. Thanks for sharing. I really like their initiative for preventing waste.

  18. Sharing the best of a culture should promote a greater appreciation of one another. Love the photos and history, Madhu. We recently returned from a vacation in Central New York. Part of our trip included the Seneca River wine country near Watkins Glen. We stopped in at Glenora winery and brought back a lovely bottle for our friends. Beautiful country. 😉

  19. Too bad we can’t have too much sake when we were in Japan … I actually didn’t know that sake can be that ceremonial. I attended one festival where they dance around a bottle, and then handed it to someone in the circle. It was fun. My friend got voluntold to drink it.

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