Shinto: It’s Thanksgiving today; it’s Niinamesai!

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 23: Thanksgiving comes today for followers of the Japanese Shinto religion—Nov. 23 is Niinamesai, literally “Celebrations of the First Taste” and part of a series of Asian harvest rites. Officially, today is the day the emperor makes the season’s first offering of rice crop to the deities. (Get more from the Shinto Online Network Association.) Today’s ritual is one of the most important for the emperor and is the most important in the Shinto religion, since the emperor’s gesture displays gratitude for a good crop on behalf of the entire population. (Details are at the Encyclopedia of Shinto.)

Even in 21st-century Japan, the Niinamesai ritual remains important. Today is also known as Labor Thanksgiving Day and is celebrated nationally; the Meiji Jingu Shrine, located in the bustling city of Tokyo, is a common place to witness Niinamesai traditions. (The Miami Herald also featured an article on Niinamesai celebrations in a Japanese garden.)

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