Ceremony—Diatomaceous Earth

Assembled before a memorial column commemorating from where the diatomaceous earth—jinoko—was discovered, the Shinto priests prepare to make their blessing.  Offerings of fish, vegetables and saké adorn the temporary alter.  Thin culms of bamboo help to mark the hallowed spot.
Respect and Reverence
Having lived in Japan for 24 years I often witnessed and experienced how respectful the Japanese people are.  It is so natural that it would seem to be part of their very make-up.  It could simply be called politeness, or good manners.  In essence, however, it can be recognised as various kinds of behaviour expressing respect for and extending beyond their fellow human beings.

The gathering of representatives from the Wajima lacquerware makers and city officials bow respectfully as the priest reads out the blessing.

Regardless of whether they are pets or wild, the Japanese have as much respect for animals as they do for people.  Nature, too, is shown great respect although there are always exceptions.  The litter left by climbers of Mr. Fuji is well known.

Should we regard the tatami mat as something that is shown respect?  In some cases it is treated with such a degree of respect it verges on reverence.

Pellets of the diatomaceous earth dry on racks in view of the proceedings.
One thing for sure.  There can be few if any other cultures around the world that would show respect and revere a type of earth with such dignity.

The Mayor of Wajima, Fumiaki Kaji, respectfully claps his hands three times—firstly to announce his presence to the deity, secondly as an expression of his appreciation and lastly to frighten off any evil spirits.

A little way from the centre of Wajima, is Mt. Komine.  It was from here that a diatomaceous rock was first extracted toward the end of the sixteenth century.  Made up of fossilised single-celled algae with a silica cell wall, the earth is dried and then roasted before being made into a powder called jinoko.  It is mixed with raw lacquer and rice paste to be used as a ground, which helps to give Wajima lacquerware its acclaimed robustness.  This was an advantage and selling point that other lacquerware makers could only dream of.

It is then perhaps little wonder that this powdery rock is so greatly venerated.  It warrants a Shinto priest to be summoned to bless the source at a ceremony attended by representatives of the lacquerware industry as well as the Mayor and other city officials.

Representing the lacquerware makers, Shin’ichi Shioyasu addresses the gathering, all of whom have respectfully turned to face him.

Treated like a deity the source is shown all due respect.  And rightly so.  It means so much to the lacquerware makers in Wajima.  To me it is things like this that set Japan and its people apart and should make us all more attentive as to how and why we should show respect and reverence.  Sadly even Japan is not perfect.  But living there certainly made me reflect on so much.  I hope I am a better person for it.

A report on my presence at the ceremony in the Hokkoku Newspaper, explaining that I was in Wajima gathering material for the blog, from Noto.

Want to know more about diatomaceous earth?  http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/degen.html

Bill Tingey Photo © Copyright

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