Nenchu gyoji

Nenchu gyoji
   Or nenju gyoji. 'Events through the year'. The annual cycle of [religious] observances. Japanese religion at every level is profoundly calendrical, normally structured around an annual cycle of festivals and special days referred to as nenchu gyoji. Details vary from region to region and among different religious institutions. Shinto shrines, like Buddhist temples and new religious movements virtually define themselves by their particular nenchu gyoji which contain, as well as nationally-celebrated festivals such as niinamesai, shichi-go-san etc., the special festivals or rites of the shrine celebrating its founding or other significant events in its history. The nenchu gyoji may include events dated according to the lunar or solar calendar. The traditional lunar calendar, which required an extra month to be inserted every three years was replaced by the Western-style (solar) calendar in 1872. Many festivals are still scheduled by the lunar calendar. Three main methods are used to determine the festival's date in the solar calendar. These are (1) One month is added to the lunar date (e.g. the 15th day of the 7th lunar month ('15th July') becomes the 15th day of the 8th solar month (15th August). (2) The festival is held on the same date in the solar calendar as was scheduled in the lunar calendar (15th day of 7th month becomes 15th July). (3) The festival remains fixed by the lunar calendar and therefore moves around the solar calendar like the Muslim Ramadan and to some extent the Christian Easter. In Tokugawa religion the annual ritual calendar combined Buddhist, community and shrine-rites, organised broadly around the gosekku (five seasonal divisions) plus New Year (shogatsu) and bon festivals. In the 1870's following the Meiji restoration a new annual calendar of rites was introduced. It emphasised rites for previous emperors in the 'unbroken lineage' and for the first time synchronised the nenchu gyoji of shrines throughout the country with the annual ritual cycle of the imperial household (koshitsu saishi), giving a central role to the emperor as priest of the nation. The new ritual calendar gradually superseded the old, especially after the Russo-Japanese war (1904-6) when the annual rites were introduced into schools and promoted by local authorities.

A Popular Dictionary of Shinto. .

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