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Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Four months have passed since the quake and tsunami in Tohoku Region. Memorial services were held in the afflicted areas.
Many people are still searching for their family members. As of July 10, 15,547 people died, 5,344 are missing and about 36,000 are living in evacuation centers such as schools. Sixty percent of the whole amount of rubbles in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima Prefectures still remains in the areas. The nuclear accident in Fukushima is not over yet.

The rainy season ended in Tohoku Region today. As an aside, Hokkaido area doesn't have the rainy season.

Moshioyaki-shinji(藻塩焼神事) is a religious service held from July 4th to 6th at Okama Jinja Shrine(御釜神社) which is a subordinate shrine of Shiogama Jinja Shrine (鹽竈神社). According to legend, a god named Shiotsuchi-no-ojinokami(鹽土老翁神) who is enshrined at Okama Jinja introduced a method for making salt to people.
Moshio(藻塩) means seaweed salt. A seaweed named hondawara(Sargassum fulvellum) is used here.

Okama Jinja has four sacred cauldrons said to have been used by the god to make salt. It was said the color of water in the cauldrons changes when something extraordinary happens, so their color change was reported to the Domain during the Edo Period.
A live-in caretaker said she saw subtle color change in the two of the four cauldrons on March 11th this year.

●On July 4th, hondawara is harvested in the offing of Hanabuchi harbour. (The harbour was hit by tsunami this March.)
The salt contains rich dietary minerals such as iodine, calcium, kalium and magnesium extracted from hondawara, and it has low level of salt. Some people use hondawara as food for abalone and its strained lees are used as fertilizer. 

●On July 5th, the water of four sacred cauldrons is replaced with tidewater taken at high tide in Matsushima Bay once a year.

●On July 6th, Moshio is made by putting an shallow cauldron on a hearth, puting one tier bamboo shelf over a shallow cauldron, spreading hondawara on the shelf, pouring tidewater over hondawara into the cauldron and boiling down tidewater in the cauldron.
Salt made at this event is offered to Shiogama Jinja Shrine at its annual celebration on July 10th.

Tabrokuen(丹六園) established in 1720 is near Shiogama Jinja and sells a confection named Shiogama(志ほがま) modeled after Moshio. The shop has been making and selling it since the middle of the Edo Period.

Shiogama(しおがま) is a confection which is made by molding a mixture of rice flour, sugar, salt and red shiso (Perilla frutescens). Now this confection is made in various areas. Red shiso represents hondawara.

Moshio was made in various areas around Japan and often appears in classical literature. The following waka poem is quoted in "Suma(須磨)", chapter 12 of "The Tale of Genji".

わくらばに 問ふ人あらば 須磨の浦に 藻塩たれつつ わぶと答へよ
(Wa-ku-ra-ba-ni To-u-hi-to-a-ra-ba Su-ma-no-u-ra-ni Mo-shi-o-ta-re-tsu-tsu Wa-bu-to-ko-ta-e-yo)

"If someone happens to ask for me, tell him that I'm making salt by pouring tidewater over hondawara at Suma beach(shedding tears) and leading a lonely life ," by Ariwara no Narihira(在原業平, 825-880).

Making salt by pouring tidewater over hondawara means shedding tears. Narihira got involved in an incident and was forced to leave Kyoto for Suma. This poem is renowned as a poem that expressed wreckage of his hopes.

Hote-matsuri(帆手祭) is a festival held at  Shiogama Jinja  to pray for fire prevention originally, dating back to 1682. On March 10th, 16 young men go down the steep flight of 202 steps holding one ton of mikoshi(portable shrine) on their shoulders, parade along the street and go up the flight.
The festival was held as usual this year. However, the next day, that earthquake and tsunami attacked Tohoku Region. In Shiogama City, 45 people were killed.

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