The Labor Day weekend gives residents of St. Louis and many other Americans the chance to experience not only the arts, music and culture of Japan but also the Shinto religion, which is embedded in all of those things. Unknown to most Americans, Shinto is one of two main religions of Japan and has been practiced since the early 8th century and this festival allows others to get a glimpse into the folklore, history, and practices of Shinto itself.
Shinto beliefs are based on purity and cleansing is done on a regular basis. It is the belief that wrong deeds done throughout life create a sense of personal impurity rather than the belief of morality versus immorality. The cleansing processes make one whole again in spirit and helps one achieve purity and is done by making offerings at various shrines as well as the washing of hands while reciting prayers. The Shinto practitioners also believe highly in wearing protective amulets for various purposes and place an interesting stigma upon death and therefore most funerals are actually performed by Buddhist practices. This upcoming festival, which will be held at the Missouri Botanical Garden, allows many who have never heard or know very little about Shinto to get a rare look into the religion that created the Japan that we know.
The festival’s opening ceremony will kick of Saturday morning with a omikoshi Shinto shrine parade, taiko drumming, and bon odori festival dancing. There will also be Sumo wrestling demonstrations and talks throughout the event.