Do you know about Japanese shrines? Sai shrine is one of the sub-shrines of Omiwa shrine, which is one of the oldest shrines in Japan. At 4T-AMKY, Teachers and Students write about Japanese culture, food, history, many spots to visit, and other stuff. Enjoy reading and knowing about deeper Japanese culture!
Mount Miwa＃06 ‐Sai shrine and Kusuri-ido(medicine well ).
When you visit Omiwa shrine* and worship at the Haiden (the worship hall), I highly recommend you also visit the Sai shrine, one of the sub-shrines of Omiwa shrine, which is about 5 minutes on foot from the Haiden.
Simply pass the Kitoden (a ceremony hall) on your left,
and follow a small path called the Kusuri-michi (medicine path) up the side of Mt. Miwa until you reach the Sai shrine.
Ara-mitama* (wild soul of the deity (Kami*) of Omiwa shrine) is worshiped in the Sai shrine. It is Kami of medicine and also Kami of healing of illness.
Medical Herbs Festival
Hanashizume-no-matsuri (Medical Herbs Festival), which is also called Kusuri-matsuri takes place on April 18th every year at the Omiwa and Sai shrines. At this festival the prevention of disease and promotion of good health are celebrated and prayed for.
According to the Taiho Code established in 701, it is specified that the Medical Herbs Festival must take place at Omiwa shrine and Sai shrine every year. It means that the festivals have been celebrated at least for more than 1300 years.（Reference: Hanashizume-no-matsuri in 2022 issued by Omiwa shrine.）
Kusuri-ido (medicine well)
There is an ancient well called Kusuri-ido(medicine well) located to back-left of the main building of the Sai shrine. The well water is a natural spring from the sacred mount Miwa. It is said that drinking it heals all sickness.
The well water is called Goko-zui (water of Kami) or Kusuri-mizu (water of medicine).
Worshippers can drink the well water at the Kusuri-ido. You are welcome to bring empty bottles to fill up at the well and take back to your home. You can also buy bottles of the water at the shrine office.
Whenever I visit the kusuri-ido, I see people constantly taking water from the well.
Nara prefecture is famous for drugs for household delivery*, which is called oki-gusuri. Some drug companies visit and get the well water when they start to manufacture drugs. In the same way some food companies visit and get the well water when they start to manufacture Somen (Japanese thin wheat noodles). Miwa area is famous for somen called miwa-somen. Calligraphers and painters also visit and get this well water for their works. It is especially important to collect water from the well when a family member becomes ill. No wonder there are always so many people at kusuri-ido!
This is a tradition that has continued since ancient times, people such as calligraphers and painters, as well as the sick, visit here wishing to receive the power of the Kami of Miwa for their works.
*Kami: Kami refers to a deity or deities of Shinto.
*Ara-mitama : In the Shinto teachings, it is considered that there are two aspects of a deity soul known as Ara-mitama (Deity’s wild soul)and Nigi-mitama(Deity’s peaceful soul).
Ara-mitama is energy that leads people to happiness. When it cuts off evils it is often rough and violent so it is called wild soul.
*Drugs for household delivery: Drugs stored at home. These drugs sored at home and distributed by household distributors of drug companies and people pay only when they use them. This system of selling drugs has been continued since Edo era.
*Omiwa shrine is located in Miwa, Sakurai city, Nara prefecture.
Editor: Stuart Cauley.