During the battle of arrows at Kinojo Castle and Tatetsuki Ruins, Ura and Kibitsuhiko both transformed into various creatures, and in the end, Ura was defeated by Kibitsuhiko. Nevertheless, the legend of Ura and Kibitsuhiko does not end there. There is also a part that can be referred to as a "second story."
The head of the defeated Ura was buried deep underground at what is now Kibitsu Shrine (Okamaden). Ura told Kibitsuhiko that he would tell people’s fortunes using a kettle, and give guidance to the local people regarding their way of life.
Today, this fortune-telling is the kettle-ringing ritual (Narukama Shinji ritual) that takes place at Kibitsu Shrine.
This ritual is definitely something that should be experienced.
As such, I proceeded through a beautiful corridor that extends from the main hall, and headed to Okamaden.
The chief priest Mr. Uenishi called me over, saying, “Please sit down here,” and I sat down alone in front of a kettle. At that time, I felt as if I had become separated from this world and the flow of time had somehow become completely different than usual. The kettle before my eyes was paired with another one, as is common with old-fashioned Japanese stoves, and was being heated with a red flame. It seemed as though everything in my field of vision was a tool for detaching worshipers from the “here and now.”
The inside of the room was covered in black soot, and rays of light entering through gaps twinkled sublimely and put me in a mystical frame of mind.
The ritual then began.
A woven straw mat over the kettle was removed, and steam steadily rose out. A steaming basket containing brown rice was carefully inserted into the kettle and slowly shaken back and forth. I wondered what that movement did.
The kettle then suddenly started making a vibrating noise. I was flabbergasted. I of course did not reveal this, but in my mind I was elated that it was actually making a sound.
This lasted for a brief moment.
The reverberation of the sound gradually became like a large sphere, and it felt as if this was completely enveloping my body and assuring me of good fortune ahead. While the reverberation only lasted a few minutes, it made me feel purified and at peace.
When speaking to Mr. Uenishi after the ritual, he mentioned that what is generated is considered to be more of a “wave” than a “sound.” Apparently when the ritual is performed on groups of people, sometimes some people hear the sound while others do not. The fact that people in the same place can have completely different experiences seems to be one of the amazing things about this ritual.
Ordinarily, a sound made with brown rice does not turn into a large, enveloping tone. I think there must be a special something in the hearts of the people present that makes the sound resonate in that way. It seems that the other people who participated in the ritual with me did in fact have different perceptions of it than I did. Thus, the Narukama Shinji ritual made me feel as if the ogre Ura still exists in the hearts of humans.
I recalled Mr. Takeda’s comment at Kinojo Castle that “Momotaro doesn’t visit places unless there is treasure there,” and wondered what this could mean.
It seemed that perhaps this mystery could be solved by visiting the vestiges of ancient Okayama, from an era when the area referred to as “Kibi.”
I thus decided to visit sites of ancient Kibi for the next installment.
(To be continued…)