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.
The 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.
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
The Meiji period was an enlightened period during which a policy of “Japanese Spirit and Western Knowledge” was adopted, to learn from the best of Western culture and civilization while keeping Japan’s age-old spirited revered traditions. Emperor Meiji led the way in promoting modernization by embracing many features of western culture in his personal life, such as shearing his topknot and donning western attire, and in many other aspects of daily living. Among these departures, His Majesty set an example by taking western food and in particular by enjoying wine with it.
The barrels of wine to be consecrated at Meiji Jingu have been offered by the celebrated wineries of Bourgogne in France on the initiative of Mr. Yasuhiko Sata, Representative, House of Burgandy in Tokyo, Honorary Citizen of Bourgogne and owner of the Chateau de Chaillly Hotel-Golf. Profound gratitude is due to the winemakers who have so generously contributed to this precious gift to be consecrated here to the spirit of world peace and amity, with the earnest prayer that France and Japan will enjoy many more fruitful years of friendship.” ~ Meiji Jingu
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: