Salt Making Shrine

Two low buildings with thatched roofs and a torii, surrounded by a hedge

Yesterday, March 3, we went to 二見 (Futami) in the afternoon. Futami is a part of Ise directly on the seashore, and our first stop there was a place that directly depends on sea water: 御塩殿神社 (Mishiodono-jinja), which literally translates to “Shrine of the hall of the honored salt”. This shrine is responsible for making salt for sacrifices of food at Ise Jingu. The process starts in a special field near the shrine.

A torii in front of a field surrounded by a ditch

Every summer, half-circles of earth are created connected to the boards you can see in the photo above, and water from a ditch connected to the mouth of the Isuzugawa river poured into them. This part of the river is already affected by the tide, so at high tide sea water can flow into the ditch. The water then seeps out and dries under the summer sun, and the remaining salt is gathered back into the circles, creating an increasingly concentrated saline solution.

Two low buildings with thatched roofs and a torii, surrounded by a hedge

This solution is then carried to the main shrine, and boiled in the building on the left on the photo above, removing the water and leaving salt behind. All these steps are performed by people wearing traditional white garments using traditional tools, and framed by Shinto ceremonies. This salt making ceremony takes multiple days and is performed once a year.

Torii in front of a thatched roof building surrounded by a wooden fence

Twice a year, in March and October, the salt gathered in summer is “packaged” in an equally traditional way: It is filled into pottery with a shape I can best describe as roughly triangular “bags”, and then baked. Each time, 100 such bags are prepared. Ise Jingu has facilities for producing other kinds of food as well, and all the food used in ceremonies comes from its own lands.

Waves rolling onto a shore fortified with concrete, some pine branches in the foreground

From the shrine, we took a walk along the shore to our next destination, which was a Hina-matsuri doll exhibit I’ve already mentioned.

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