A Prayer from the Shinto religion
Shinto (神道 Shintō or Shintoism or kami-no-michi) is the traditional religion of Japan that focuses on ritual practices to be carried out diligently to establish a connection between present-day Japan and its ancient past. Classified as an East Asian religion by scholars of religion, its practitioners often regard it as Japan’s indigenous religion and as a nature religion. Scholars sometimes call its practitioners Shintoists, although adherents rarely use that term themselves. There is no central authority in control of the movement and much diversity exists among practitioners.
Norito are Shinto ritual prayers that are addressed directly to the kami during formal ceremonies. They are recited by a priest on behalf of the worshippers. The norito are spoken in formal Japanese phrases of great beauty.
Shinto believes that certain words have spiritual power if properly spoken, and this style of language is used because of a belief that using these ‘beautiful’, ‘correct’ words will bring about good.
During the State Shinto period formal prayers were laid down by the government, but priests can now use any appropriate prayers – or can compose their own.
Norito include the yogoto, which is a blessing specifically for the preservation of the imperial reign. The Nakatomi no yogoto is pronounced on the day of the emperor’s accession to the throne.
If you want to know what the Hi-Fu-Mi norito sounds like, you can hear it being recited here.
The conventional order of events in many Shinto festival rituals is as follows:
- Purification – this takes place before the main ceremony
- Adoration – bowing to the altar
- Opening of the sanctuary
- Presentation of food offerings (meat cannot be used as an offering)
- Prayers (the form of prayers dates from the 10th century CE)
- Music and dance
- Offerings – these are symbolic and consist of twigs of a sacred tree bearing of white paper
- Removal of offerings
- Closing the sanctuary
- Final adoration
- Sermon (optional)
- Ceremonial meal (this is often reduced to ceremonial sake drinking)
Although the people living the across the Ocean surrounding us,
I believe, all our brothers and sisters,
Why are there constant troubles in the world?
Why do winds and waves rise in the ocean surrounding us?
I only earnstly wish that wind will soon puff away all the clouds which
are hanging over the tops of the mountains.
The “Hi-Fu-Mi” Norito:
The Hi-Fu-Mi norito is considered a prayer of purification, with the power of changing misfortune into good fortune.
ひ ふ み よ い む な や こ と も ち ろ ら ね
し き る ゆ ゐ つ わ ぬ そ を た は く め か
う お ゑ に さ り へ て の ま す あ せ え ほ れ け
In romanised Japanese:
HI FU MI YO I MU NA YA KO TO MO CHI RO RA NE
SHI KI RU YU I TSU WA NU SO O TA HA KU ME KA
U O E NI SA RI HE TE NO MA SU A SE E HO RE KE
This book presents, for the first time, a collection of ancient Japanese Shinto prayers in a format where English speaking readers can both understand the deep meaning of the translated text and can also pronounce the original Japanese words.
Shinto is an ancient spiritual tradition, primarily practiced in Japan, which is now spreading its traditions to the western world. Its primordial rituals and traditions touch a deep chord within one’s spiritual self. Shinto’s focus on divinity of all beings and of all creation, on living with gratitude and humility, and on purification and lustration of one’s self and environment will bring light and joy to any reader.