We were able to have a rare experience: making shimenawa, a sacred rope made out of bunches of straw twisted and wrapped together. It is usually used to decorate shrines in Japan and serves as a border between the realm of the gods and the realm of humans. Though it is common to see shimenawa within shrines and temples, it is also used inside homes for special holidays such as New Year’s Day.
After arriving in Iinan and having some ice cream, we made our way to the Oshimenawa Museum and Creation Studio (Great Sacred Rope Museum and Creation Studio). The main entrance of the building itself is adorned with a giant shimenawa. Inside one can see different kinds of shimenawa.
First we were able to make our own small shimenawa. The master craftsman taught us how to wrap two bunches of straw together so that they intertwine tightly. We conducted the exercise in pairs, with one person holding the tied end of the two bunches and the other person holding the opposite ends of each bunch, twisting and then wrapping them around each other repeatedly.
After making the small shimenawa, we were able to experience making a large one! We were led to the studio near the back of the facility. When we arrived we saw two large and long ropes made out of bunches of straw. The two ropes were bound to a small pole, which served as the starting point for twisting the large ropes together.
Essentially we did the same thing as with the small shimenawa, but we needed many more people to move the ropes. We joined the workers there and separated into groups. One group would lift one rope and place it down on the opposite side of the second rope on the ground, push the first rope close to the second rope, and then repeat the process using the second rope. It was pretty tough, and I broke a sweat doing it, but it was fun working together to make something that large!
After we finished, we took a picture. Apparently the shimenawa we made will be used at a shrine in Hiroshima! I am really happy I could take part in a tradition that has existed for hundreds of years.
This web page introduces the remarks and comments written by CIR (Coordinator of International Relations) of Shimane Prefectural Government who experienced Japanese Culture.