Katatagae (The Practice of Changing a Direction to Avoid a Tabooed Direction) (方違え)

Katatagae or Katachigae is one of the customs based on Onmyodo (way of Yin and Yang; occult divination system based on the Taoist theory of the five elements) performed from the Heian period (794-1185). It is also referred to as Kataimi.

It was customary that people read an auspicious or inauspicious direction related to the direction in which they went out, constructed houses, administered affairs in the imperial court, and started wars, and when they found the direction inauspicious, they relocated themselves to avoid that direction by once traveling to another place.

Basic practice of Katatagae
In case that when they left or came home, a specific Hoi-jin God (directional gods believed to govern people's fortune, both good and bad, descending from heaven on a certain day, travelling from one direction to another in a prescribed order, and returning to their celestial abode) presided over the direction of their destination, people stayed overnight at another site and the next day they would go to the destination from a different direction in order to avoid the tabooed direction.

For example, just consider the case that when people came home from their office, their home was located in the west, where Tenichi-jin God, for whom people should practice Katatagae, existed. In this case, if they came home directly, they would violate the tabooed direction, where Tenichi-jin God was located. Therefore, if they stayed overnight at their acquaintance's house located in, say, the southwest, and the next day they would come home from that place, they traveled to the southwest and northwest, so that they were able to avoid going to the west.

Also, in building a new house, if the construction site was located in the tabooed direction from the center of the house they lived, they stayed in another place to change the direction of the site before starting the construction. This practice of Katatagae for Tenichi-jin God, who remained in one direction for a few days, was easy, but there was sometimes the case where Kon-jin God presided over one direction for a year, in which people planned to build a house. In such case, if people stayed overnight at another place on the first day of spring in the construction year and would come home the next day, they were exempted from further practice of Katatagae for a while.

The five Hoi-jin Gods, for whom people should practice Katatagae, were as follows:

Tenichi-jin God (also called Tenitsu-jin God, or Naka-gami God) was believed to preside over a direction for five days. Taihaku was believed to travel from one direction to another every day. Daishogun (Hoi-jin God) was believed to preside over a direction for three years, but occasionally travel to another direction for five days. Kon-jin God was believed to stay in one direction for a year. Each of O God and So God was believed to preside over one direction for a month and a half. One of the two Gods was considered to follow the other, so that a direction was presided over by the two Gods for three months in total.

The practice of Katatagae in real life
As for Tenichi-jin God, it was inconvenient that people should practice Katatagae for five days when Tenichi-jin God was located in a direction of their office or home. In fact, if people practiced Katatagae on the first day when Tenichi-jin God moved to that direction, it was considered safe for them to travel in any direction even while Tenchi-jin God stayed in the direction for five days.

As for the practice of Katatagae for the Hoi-jin Gods who presided over one direction for a long period (such as Daishogun, Kon-jin God, O and So Gods), it was considered to be ineffective to avoid the taboo if people practiced only one Katatagae on the first day when the Hoi-jin gods moved from one direction to another, so that during that period, they needed to practice Katatagae several times according to the following rules.

In the case of travelling in the tabooed direction from one's home, moving to one's home which lay in such direction, and constructing at one's home, one had to practice Katatagae as follows. One had to practice Katatagae once on the first day when the Hoi-jin Gods moved to the direction. From then on, he or she had practice Katatagae every day for a few days. After a set period of time, he or she had to practice Katatagae again after a set period of time. In the case of travelling from one place to another except one's home, one had to practice Katatagae as follows. One had to practice Katatagae once on the first day when the Hoi-jin Gods moved to the direction. He or she had to practice Katatagae again after a set period of time (after 45 days for Daishogun and 15 days for O and So God).

The practice of Katatagae for the case of travelling to or from one's home should be done more strictly than that of travelling to or from other places. Therefore, making use of such concept, one adopted a convenient practice of Katatagae. In other words, the idea was that if the practice of Katatagae for travelling to one place to another except one's home should be more lightly treated than that of involving one's home, it was convenient to assume that a place which, in fact, was not one's home, would be 'one's home'. On the previous evening of each Hoi-jin God's travel to the direction, one declared a place, which was not one's home nor located in a tabooed direction, was 'one's home' to the God and stayed there overnight. Doing so circumvented the need to practice Katatagae once per 45 days or 15 days.

The places which nobles at that time usually used to declare as 'their home' were temples. As a result, when this way of Katatagae became popular during the late Heian period, temples in Kyoto became more and more majestic. The day when Daishogun, Kon-jin God, O and So God traveled from one direction to another was the Vernal Equinox Day. Therefore, many nobles were seen to travel from one direction to another here and there in Kyoto on the Vernal Equinox Day and then every fifteen days (that is, 24 divisions of the old calendar).

Hochigai-jinja Shrine
Hochigai-jinja Shrine is located in Sakai City, Osaka Prefecture. This is the shrine where priests pray for 'protection from unlucky or taboo directions' to avoid those evil things when moving one's residence or leaving on journeys. They pray not only for persons, but also vehicles and private cars, so that many people constantly visit to this shrine from a distance.