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Japan - Gokonomiya - Kencha
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Gokonomiya Shrine 御香宮神社 Reisai, Kyoto
Gokonomiya shrine has been famous for its exceptional water. Sweet-smelling water gushes out of the ground of the shrine initially called Gosho. The name of Goko (scent) was given by Emperor Seiwa (850-880). Still people come from all over to take home the water which is said to alleviate illness. Fushimi sake is made of this medium hard water which is known for its iron-free balance of potassium, calcium and other minerals. The term onna sake (female sake) is used to describe this sake, giving an indication of its delicate, palatable flavour. In the Momoyama period Toyotomi Hideyoshi designated the shrine as a guardian god of Fushimi castle. The architectural characteristics of the era can be seen in the main building.
At the Gokonomiya reisai (annual festival) Genjoraku (finding-a-snake dance) and Kencha (secret tea ceremony) are dedicated to the shrine deity, Jingu
Kogo. She was the wife of the 14th Emperor Chuai and Emperor Ojin’s mother. She is worshipped as the goddess of safe delivery and fighting and called Saint's Mother God. In 200 she began her bloodless conquest of three Korean kingdoms aided by a pair of divine jewels that allowed her to control the tides. Her unborn son
Ojin, later deified as Hachiman, the god of war, remained in her womb for three years, giving her time to complete the fight and return to Japan. The semi-legendary empress-regent Jingu Kogo (170-269) ruled for 69 years, and was also called Okinagatarashi hime no
Dressed in ceremonial kimono four ladies carefully handed a ceramic tea bowl on a wooden platform and arranged tea implements in the formal manner called daisu
kazari. Kencha shiki is the most formal of tea ceremonies and dedicated to the deity. In this ritual every ceremonial step should be purified and sanctified. The ladies donned a white face mask so that the unclean breath of mortals would not touch the Holy Spirit. The Japanese ceremony of brewing and drinking tea
(chanoyu) has been practised and polished for more than 400 years. Based on precise use of herbs and implements, embellished by specific motions and aesthetics, and rounded out by an overarching spiritual sense connected to Zen Buddhism, it was developed in 15th-century Japan.