Here is Part II of my article about Rev. Koichi Barrish, the first American Shinto priest and also an Aikido Sensei. Barrish Sensei has just joined the Western Aikido Association with his whole group of dojos. It is an exciting and welcome union for both the Association, and for Barrish Sensei's group.
My questions continue with Barrish Sensei's enlightening answers.
Q: Your shrine here in America is affiliated with the oldest Shinto Shrine in Japan. How did this affiliation come about? And what is important about this connection?
A: “Tsubaki America Shrine was established in 1986 in Stockton, CA by Rev. Dr. Yukitaka Yamamoto the 96th High Priest of Tsubaki Grand Shrine in Mie, Japan. Tsubaki America was the 1st Shrine to be built on North American soil. A series of Priests from Tsubaki Grand Shrine in Japan served at Tsubaki America, introducing the Jinja Shinto to the US."
"In 1992 with the help of many Aikido friends I built Kannagara Jinja to enshrine the various Kami of Aikido and O Sensei and to explore and share Aiki as Gyo. We were always the Bun-shya/ branch shrine of Tsubaki Okami Yashiro as that is where I received my training but we were mainly a shrine for Aikido practitioners only....then in 1997 we were " discovered" by the community of Japanese people living in the Pacific Northwest and we began to be more and more active as the Jinja Shinto Shrine. In 2001 17 acres of land adjacent to Kannagara Jinja was donated to Tsubaki America by the Matsuri Foundation and the decision was made to combine Tsubaki America and Tsubaki Kannagara Jinja at the sacred site of Kannagara Jinja.
"Tsubaki House/ our Jinja Kaikan (guest house) was built and the system of Sukei-kai/ shrine members was established throughout North America and the world. While we are still quite active as the Aiki Dojo the great majority of the many thousands of annual visitors have no idea about such activity."
Q: What are your duties as a Shinto priest? And what kamis or spirits do you have at your own shrine?
A: "...as the Kannushi/ Shrine Priest my job is primarily to care for enshrined Kami and also Sanpaiysa/ shrine visitors-worshippers. Each morning begins with the Misogi Shuho. after purifying myself I prepare the daily Shinsen/ food offering for enshrined Kamisama and conduct the Chohai/ morning ceremony of Oharahi. Tsubaki Okami Yashiro and it's US Branch Shrine, America Tsubaki Okami Yashiro are Gokitoh Jinja, that means the work of the shrine is to conduct Go-kitoh-kigansai/ prayer ceremonies conducted by the Shinto Priest on behalf of visitors.
"People visit the shrine during pivotal moments or crossroads of life, such as: marriages, when there is the new baby, new house or new job or when some life event - good or bad has occurred-- also at times of reaching critical ages or during some premonition of danger or if misfortune has occurred. On most days people are visiting the shrine to have the appropriate ceremony conducted---sometimes we are very continuously busy to welcome such guests and sometimes only a little busy.......also we are conducting rituals for people from afar who cannot visit in person and or sending Juyohin/ shrine amulets.
"Also we are always preparing for the Taisai, the great festivals/ seasonal observances of the shrine. Also we welcome many Shato Sanpaisya/ meaning people who visit the shine informally to enjoy the grounds and sacred atmosphere and perhaps visit Juyosyou/ amulet window. We also conduct Gaisai/ ceremonies outside of the shrine such as purifications for businesses or homes, construction ceremonies etc...
"As for enshrined Kami: Gosaijin ( main enshrined Kami) of Tsubaki Grand Shrine in Mie Japan and it’s North American branch-shrine Tsubaki Grand Shrine of America are Sarutahiko Okami, great Kami of KI, ancestor of all Earthly Kami, Kami of Guidance and activating motivation and raising spirituality. Kami of centering and groundedness and of progressing positively in harmony with Divine Nature, Kami who presides over everything within the atmosphere of our Earth. Ame-no-Uzume-no-Mikoto, wife of Sarutahiko Okami, Kami of arts and entertainment, harmony, meditation, marriage and joy. As they are a wedded couple, Tsubaki Shrine is the place to pray for a happy home, family prosperity and safety.
"Tsubaki Grand Shrine of America also enshrines: Amaterasu OmiKami (Kami of the Sun, the Highest Shinto Kami who is in charge of all living things and is the Kami presiding over everything that originates in the parent/child relationship), Ugamitama-no-O-Kami (Kami of foodstuffs and all things to support/ sustain human life/Oinarisama), America Kokudo Kunitama-no-Kami (protector of North American Continent) and Ame-no-Murakumo-Kukisamuhara-Ryu-O (Kami of Aiki-do and the circulation of KI between Heaven and Earth)."
Part III will follow. I'm sure you'll find what continues with Barrish Sensei as exciting and educational as I have.
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