Nagano: Absence of frozen lake surface cracks reported to deities

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A shimenawa sacred rope is burned after a ceremony at Yatsurugi Shrine in Suwa, Nagano Prefecture, on Feb. 19.

SUWA, Nagano — About 30 people took part in a traditional ceremony held last month to report to the gods about the presence or absence of omiwatari — large cracks that appear on a frozen lake surface — on Lake Suwa this winter.

A representative of shrine parishioners and chief priest Kiyoshi Miyasaka were among the participants at the ceremony before the Yatsurugi Shrine altar in Suwa on Feb. 19.

Miyasaka read a Shinto prayer reporting that omiwatari were not observed this season, a phenomenon known as akenoumi. He and other representatives offered sprigs from a sacred tree at the ceremony, after which a shimenawa sacred rope made for use at the ceremony if omiwatari had been observed was burned.

“The presence or absence has been reported for the 579th year,” Miyasaka said. “Although omiwatari didn’t appear this winter, I felt the mystery, mystique, tremendousness and warmth of nature.”