Heritage of Japan

New ibis feathers to be used on sacred sword hilt 

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 24, 2013)

Tail feathers of Japanese crested ibises at Ishikawa Zoo in Nomi, Ishikawa Prefecture, will be used in a votive sword, one of the sacred treasures to be renewed along with the renovation of the Ise Grand Shrines this autumn.

Although the shrines in Ise, Mie Prefecture, are traditionally rebuilt every 20 years, securing the feathers was a great concern when the shrines were rebuilt in 1973 and 1993 due to the sharp decline in the number of ibises.

According to the shrines, Engishiki, a detailed rule book for ceremonies and institutions in the Heian period (794-1192), stipulates the hilt of the sword Sugarino-Ontachi should be wrapped in ibis feathers. It is believed the hilt has been covered with two tail feathers and wound by a red braid for more than 1,000 years.

To preserve the…

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