Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Homeward Bound (Part 2)

棟上げ Muneage

'Raising the ridgepole' (of a roof, which completes the framework of a new house). The term equally refers to the accompanying ritual, performed by the carpenters and the owners of the house. Small monetary gifts may be given to the carpenters on this occasion. A gohei inscribed with the owner's name and the date, with an o-fuda from an appropriate shrine attached to the bottom and an o-tafuku at the top, is placed behind the rafters for protection. Offerings and symbols of purification including items such as fruit, rice and salt are made, and those present clap their hands twice and bow in the manner of devotees at a shrine. Sand from the precincts of a shrine is scattered on the ground and sake poured in the unlucky north-east (kimon; demon-gate) corner of the house. The ceremony is also known as jotosai. It is performed in addition to the jichinsai or ground-purification ceremony carried out at the start of construction which is more likely to involve a Shinto priest.
Once the foundation is set and has hardened, as seen in the photo below, a date is set for the muneage ceremony. We were actually told to choose 3 dates due to our busy schedule and high probability of rain. We confirmed February 20th as the date for the ceremony and as you can see in the following photos, the weather was kind to us that day. You can also see in the photo below the kanji 安全第一 Anzen Daiichi, this translates to 'Safety First'. There is a high level of importance placed on the safety of the workers and those visiting the site during construction and yet the over all feeling during the whole building process was very relaxed and natural.

(The foundation and sign which lists the construction company, our names and date of completion)
After the date was set, we had to prepare a few things one of the most important things was a special bottle of 酒 Sake, Japanese rice wine. We had brought bottles of sake  to the Ji Chin Sai and were told that we could use that bottle for the Muneage ceremony as well. We also had to arrange for 弁当 Bentou, Japanese boxed lunches for all of those who would be present that day including the owners of the contracting and building companies. I also had to prepare a speech to be given before we ate lunch together.
(Muneage Group Photo, Kikuyo, Japan Feb. 20, 2015)

As the description above states, the ridgepole of the roof and the skeleton of the house is raised that morning before the ceremony begins. The ceremony is not as intricate as the Ji Chin Sai. This ceremony is conducted by the carpenters 大工さん Daiku San you may remember from previous posts that the term San is an honorific similar to Mr. or Dr. but placed after the name. The man to my right in the photo above was the chief carpenter for my house.
Next I will describe the various items listed in the interpretation above and finally I will tell you about the things we did that day.
御幣 Gohei / Onbei
Gohei is the more modern reading of the kanji the older reading is Onbei. This is a decorative zigzagging streamers, usually made of white paper, but sometimes they may also be quite colourful. In my experience plain white and alternating white and red are the most commonly seen. These are often used in various Shinto rituals. The Gohei, in this case, are attached to a talisman and placed in the rafters of the attic of the house. Once the ceiling has been finished this talisman is no longer visible. Below is a photo of typical Gohei.
お札 O-Fuda
This is simply a name tag often written as 名札 Na-fuda. This kanji is also used to write label and sometimes card, as in a name card not a birthday card.
In this case, The name of the owners of the house is inscribed on it and the O-fuda is actually holding in it the talisman which is issued by the Shinto Shrine. It is placed at the highest point in the house to protect it much like a お守り O-mamori, this is a good luck charm that you can see everywhere in Japan. People take these charms with them as accessories on their bags, in their cars, and in their wallets and they bring specific kinds of luck to the owner. But, this talisman is fairly large and unlike the smaller O-fuda and O-mamori it is not renewed yearly. Below is a photo of typical Shinto O-fuda.
お多福 O-Tafuku
This is one of the 神 Kami usually represented by a mask and often seen in 歌舞伎 Kabuki and 能楽 Noh plays. In our case the mask was not used, but there was a colourful circle shaped item that resembles the top of an umbrella, as you can see in the photo below.
The shrine that was chosen to conduct our Ji Chin Sai was 加藤神社 Katou Shrine which is located in Kumamoto City near the Kumamoto Castle. This shrine was chosen becasue Kato Kiyomasa is known in Kumamoto to have had strong ties to carpentry and architecture, "Kato Kiyomasa, was renowned castle architect in the 17th century who constructed castles in Japan and Korea" (, 19 Sept 2013). 
As I stated in the previous post, salt is often used in ceremonies to purify the area where the ceremony will take place. Sake is also used to purify and things and during the Muneage ceremony I poured Sake in the four corners of the foundation of our home and over the talisman as seen in the photos.

After all of the Sake has been poured in the appropriate places and over the items, the Talisman is hung in the highest place in the house to watch over and protect the house and those who live in it. To conclude the ceremony we all ate the boxed lunch together in the room that would be our living room. Before eating I had to give a speech. I did not know what to say so I did what anyone in my position would do these days, I conducted a search on the Internet and found the following speech which I copied and checked with my Mother-in-law to see if it would be satisfactory. She agreed that it was appropriate and I worked on trying to remember it. I should point out that I am not very good at remembering these kinds of things and usually end up ad libbing, in most cases. I wrote the speech on a little flash card and read it to the group before we ate lunch. The following is the speech I used:

This speech is short and to the point. Some of the other speeches I found talked about how happy the children will be to have their very own room and other things particular to individual circumstance, but this one focuses on the safety of the workers and our gratitude to all of those involved in making our home a reality, we felt that it was enough.
(The Talisman Hung in the rafters of my home, February, 2015.)
Boxed Lunch in the Living room, February, 2015)

It should also be noted that, in the past there used to be larger parties with such things as alcohol and BBQs. This still may be common in more rural areas, but with the strict laws on drinking and driving being enforced in Japan now more and more building companies have chosen to cut the alcohol consumption from the event.

No comments:

Post a Comment