A Brief History of Nagoshi no Harae

Nagoshi no Harae
Nagoshi no Harae | © Kyoto Convention and Visitors Bureau

Nagoshi no Harae is an ancient summer purification ritual held at the end of June, at Shinto shrines across Japan. The shrines are dedicated to upholding the traditions and customs of Japan’s ancient Shinto religion. If you are looking for a unique and interesting experience this summer in Japan, don’t miss this fascinating event.

About Nagoshi no Harae

Nagoshi no Harae, literally “summer passing purification ceremony” is one of Japan’s most celebrated great rituals and is steeped in tradition. The purification ritual has been performed at shrines since ancient times, in the hope of atoning for sins that have been committed in the first half of the year. It is a chance for redemption and a new start for the remainder of the year. The custom is still enjoyed today in modern Japan, every June 30, at many shrines across the country.

The History of Nagoshi no Harae

Nagoshi no Harae was first established during the Nara Period (710-794) and was traditionally performed on the last day of the sixth and twelfth months of the lunar calendar at the Imperial court and Shinto shrines. The great purification at the Imperial court briefly came to an end due to the Onin War (1467-77), but continued to flourish at shrines. At some point, the twelfth month purification (harae) was abandoned and the sixth month purification (nagoshi no harae) became grander in scale.

Nagoshi no Harae

The process of purification

Participants in the ritual pass through a chinowa, sacred grass wreath, which symbolises purification in Japanese culture. The shrine’s chief priest leads the participants through the wreath. You can also try it yourself, simply bow, pass through the wreath and circle back to the front from the left, pass through again to the right, then pass through one last time. Just remember left, right, left like the sign for infinity ∞. The process is believed to cleanse the participants of all misdeeds, protect them from misfortune, and to pray for health. The large chinowa grass wreaths are typically set up under a shrine’s torii gate, or in front of its main shine hall (haiden).

Kyotoites taking part in the ritual at Oharano-Jinja Shrine

Where to participate in Kyoto

Several of Kyoto’s most famous and popular shrines host the event including Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, home to the largest chinowa in Kyoto (approximately five meters in height), which is set up at the shrine gate. Kamigamo Shrine also performs the ritual as well as handing out paper dolls to the participants, which are floated down the river to rid you of misfortune. Yoshida Shrine is another popular host of the event, where participants who offer a doll amulet to the deity are gifted a wreath in return.

Kitano Tenmangu Shrine in Kyoto
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

Edit article