Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Published in Sacred and Ceremonial Textiles: Proceedings of the Fifth Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, Chicago, Illinois, 1996. (Minneapolis, 1997).


Copyright 1996 by the author.


This paper addresses the reproduction and ceremonial offering of sacred textiles and apparel on the occasion of the vicennial transfer rituals (Shikinen Sengu), which take place once in twenty years in Ise Jingu. The most recent performance of the 1300-year old ritual tradition took place in 1993. The ritual climax of the Shikinen Sengu consists of the ceremonial transfer of the "body" of the deity Amaterasu Omikami (a sacred mirror) from the 20-year old sanctum to an identical structure constructed in an adjacent area. Along with the body of the deity, thousands of magnificent treasures, textiles and apparel are ceremonially carried to the new sanctuary, where they remain alongside the deity for twenty years.

There is a total of 1085 textiles and apparel, in 525 categories, which are offered to the deities on the occasion of the Shikinen Sengu. Their production is characterized by the effort to reproduce exactly the objects produced twenty years before. This paper examines the production of some of the most important textiles and apparel offered in the Sengu, notably the ake no nishiki no mizo (scarlet brocade), and aokokechiwata no mizo (blue cotton wool clothing dyed according to the binding technique called kyokechizome. Attention is drawn to the importance of historical continuity in the production and the ceremonial offering of these and other textiles and apparel, as well as to change and innovative recreations of ancient production techniques.