Jichin-sai (ground-breaking ceremony) (地鎮祭)

Jichin-sai (also pronounced "tokoshizume no matsuri") is a Japanese word used to describe the ground-breaking ceremony that is performed prior to the construction of an architectural structure or civil engineering work in order to appease the Shinto god or spirit of the land (known in Japanese as the Ujigami, the guardian god or spirit of the family or the community) and receive permission to use the land. The Shinto ceremony differs from the Buddhist one. Generally, it is recognized as a ceremony that seeks the blessing of the god in order to ensure the safety of the construction work, and it is sometimes called Anzen-kigan-sai (a ceremony performed to pray for safety). It is also referred to as Chinji-sai, Tsuchi-matsuri, Chi-matsuri, and Ji-iwai.

Usually, green bamboo logs are placed at each of the four corners of the construction site with shimenawa (sacred rice straw ropes) hung between them to form a ceremonial site, after which the ceremony is conducted by a Shinto priest, who plays the role of master of religious ceremonies, in the presence of the builder and the client. In the ceremonial site, an eight-legged wooden stand (called hakkyaku-dai) is placed, representing an altar, in the center of which a himorogi (a branch of the evergreen sacred osakaki tree adorned with a gohei (a wooden wand with zigzag paper strips) and yu (wood fiber used to make washi paper), into which the god is invited to descend) is erected. Offerings such as sake, water, rice, salt, vegetables, and fish are placed on the altar. In certain areas like Kansai, sand or salt is sometimes brought from the beach near Ise-jingu Shrine and put in the four corners of the stand. In some cases, a 'masakaki' which is a sakaki (a branch of the evergreen sacred sakaki tree) decorated with a silk flag that has five colors -- green, yellow, red, white, and blue -- is erected in the left and right sides of the altar. This five-colored silk represents the five elements that form all things in the universe in the Gogyo-setsu (the Theory of the Five Elements), that is, tree, fire, soil, metal, and water.

Jichin-sai in Buddhism

In Buddhism, Jichin-sai is called Jichin-ho, Chintaku-ho, Anchin-ho which is an abbreviation of Anchin-kokka-fudo-ho, and Jitenku, or popularly Ji-matsuri, Jigatame no ho, and so on. In the case of Mikkyo (esoteric Buddhism), there is a rite called Chintaku-fudo-ho which is carried out with Fudo Myoo (the god of fire) as the principal image. It is performed in the demarcated sacred space, in which a temple, a pagoda, or a tombstone will be built, to appease the souls, including those of the gods of various heavenly worlds and the spirits who died violent deaths, by holding a service for them centering around Jiten (the earth god) and using him as the principal image, to forever avert obstacles and hardship.

In the case of buildings like a temple, there is a rite named Chindan-ho, which is held to calm the dirt mound before laying a wooden floor, and Jichin (calming the land) and Chindan (calming the mound) are performed separately. Informally, however, they are sometimes carried out together. A kenbyo (a wise jar) containing goho (five treasures, or gems), shichiho (seven treasures, or gems), etc. is buried in the center of the mound. A flat stone called Chinseki is placed on top, and it is never moved even when reconstruction is undertaken. Rings, piles, and five crystal balls are buried in all directions.

The rite is also performed in Nichiren Shoshu Sect (a school of Nichiren Buddhism based on the teachings of the 13th century Japanese monk, Nichiren Daishonin) in the form of a 'kiko-shiki' (a ground-breaking ceremony), which implies praying for safety in the construction through the purification of the land with the power of the principal image. An altar is built in the center of the site, and following the posting of the joju-honzen (the principal image drawn by a past high priest) of the temple and sutra-chanting by the chief priest, the kuwaire no gishiki (a ground-breaking ritual) is carried out.

The Flow of a Jichin-sai

The general flow of a Jichin-sai is as follows.

Shubatsu (purification)
A ritual whereby the attendants and the offerings are purified in advance of the ceremony.

Koshin (calling down the god)
A ritual to summon the god of the land and the guardian god of the community to a himorogi that is erected on the altar. The Shinto priest announces the descent of the god by voicing the sound, 'Ohhh'.

Kensen (food offering)

A ritual whereby food and drink on the altar are offered to the god. The caps of the sake and water bottles are removed.

Norito-sojo (the recital of Shinto prayers)
The god is informed that a building will be constructed on the land, and Shinto prayers are recited asking him for the safety of the construction to follow.

Shiho-harai (the purification of the four directions)
Oharai (purification) is performed to purify the four corners of the land.

Jichin (appeasing the god of the land)
Karisome (the act of mowing the grass), Ugachizome (the act of leveling the land), Kuwaire (the act of plowing the land), and the like are performed. They are often divided among the architect, the builder, and the client.

Tamagushi-hoten (the offering of a tamagushi)
A tamagushi is put on the altar and worship the god. "Tamagushi" is a sprig of the sakaki tree that is decorated with shide (zigzag paper streamers).

Tessen (the removal of the offerings)
The caps of the sake and water bottles are closed, and the offerings that were made to the god are removed.

Shoshin (the ascent of the god)
A ritual to send the god who descended to the himorogi to his original residence.

Naorai (feast)

A Naorai (a feast) is held at the end of the Jichin-sai.

In the ceremonial site, the attendants of the ceremony have a toast with omiki (sacred sake) and eat the offerings that were withdrawn.