When: Jan 1 – 3
Where: Various locations in Koyasan: Garan, Okunoin & Daito
New Year ceremonies at Koyasan involve a syncretic combination of Mikkyo and Shinto elements, a reminder that it is still problematic to identify “Mikkyo” as being just “Buddhism.” Shushō-e venerates the Shinto deity of the New Year, Toshigami-sama 歳神様・年神様, who is propitiated to ensure a good harvest for the year. From Jan 1st to 3rd are the main three days, but ceremonies continue through to the 7th, with this whole week being called “New Year.” Traditionally, New Year is a time for spiritual reflection and for praying for good harvests without any disasters and for national peace and prosperity.
The title of the ceremony, shushō 修正, literally means to fix or update or make an amendment, but in this context it also derives meaning from the Japanese character 修, which refers to spiritual discipline, and the character 正 refers to the beginning of the year. The ritual of drawing sacred water, omizutori お水取り, for absolution, is similar in intent to the Shuni-e ceremony held at Todaiji in Nara.
The rituals that are held in the Garan reflect the exoteric teachings of Mikkyo, kengyō 顕教, which are the teachings that are understandable by all people; whereas, the rituals held in the Daito are esoteric teachings, mikkyō 密教, which are for those who are appropriately initiated. The above photo shows the final part of the ritual that is conducted in the Daito, whereby the priests tap the ground with a special white staff, go-otsu-e 牛玉杖, to pray for another year of good health for all people.
When you visit Koyasan at this time, you can obtain special New Year amulets for a healthy and prosperous year.