Sakaki as elite identifier, and the Sakaki Festival

“Elite Identity  / Badges membership

The first tells of Emperor Keiko’s travels from Kinai region to the western Inland Sea area (20 days distant); his party was met by a local chieftain’s ship bearing a white flag and a sakaki (Cleyera japonica) tree branch hung with a sword, a mirror and a jewel (Aston 1972. I: 206). Such tree branches, which are still used as sacred objects in Shinto rituals, can be seen in the incised drawings of boats (Fig 7.5); parasols such as those recreated in haniwa are also visible in the drawings. Such stories are related about the sovereign Chuai, who also travelled to the veteran Inland Sea and was met by 2 different chieftains, whose ships likewise displayed sakaki.” — Nihon Shoki (Aston 1896, I 219-21): Peer Polity Interaction and Socio-political Change, p 88, by Colin Renfrew、John F. Cherry;  [See “A history of the Japanese people from the earliest times to the end”  by Frank Brinkley and Dairoku Kikuchi

Sakaki Gidou – *At the Sakaki Festival of the Shikanoumi Shrine in Fukuoka, participants collect sakaki branches from trees on the sacred mountain (Kamiyama) and distribute them to residents, thereby purifying all their homes [see “Temple patterns in Ancient Japan” by Mark Riddle]. The Sakaki Festival in Nagano involves a fire ritual watch this video


Curiously, no one has yet speculated the possibility that the saka-ki may have been a tree of the (Eastern) Saka peoples, as brought over by the nomadic pastoral migrants from the continent, the tree is a homonym literally for Saka-tree, and many localities and sirnames in Japan are called variants of Saka, Sakae, Sakamoto, etc. More will be written on this subject.

Further readings:


The Sakaki Tree from Myth to Modern Japan” by Renata Maria Rusu

Read more about the Sakaki below:

Sakaki (by Green Shinto)

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