For the summer solstice celebration last year I went to the Meoto rocks near Ise where I participated in the morning misogi done in the Pacific. It is timed to coincide with sunrise on the year’s longest day, and is organised by Okitama Jinja on the shore next to the rocks.
You have to apply in advance for the event, as it is popular and numbers are limited. Participants dress in white, and though I was expecting everyone to be kitted out in the same outfit, people came in quite a variety as you can see in the photos on my flickr site …
The event starts in the dark before sunrise, and there were about 150 people in all crowded onto the shrine forecourt by the sea. After the opening ritual, there were warmup exercises before entering the sea where prayers were recited. At this stage the water only came up to knee or thigh height, but at a signal people lowered themselves into the water and then sung the national anthem.
The water was not too cold, helped by a spell of hot humid weather, and the sunrise was perfect (I was told that it’s often shrouded in cloud). To my surprise, many took it rather casually and some chatted or posed for photos. I even noticed one participant with a mobile phone!
On the other hand, when the sun came up the woman next to me was so moved that she burst into tears. And amongst the chatter afterwards, I heard several people say how glad they were to have attended and how profound an experience it was.
Later in the day I was lucky to get a guided tour around Ise, and through a previous contact was able to talk with one of the priests there. The most interesting thing I learnt was that after the goshintai (Amaterasu’s mirror) is moved in the Shikinen Sengu ceremony next year, one of the priests crows three times…
Quite a contrast with the Christian tradition!