The ornamental ball represents newly produced Sake that is made from cedar leaves.

Have you ever seen the large ornamental ball hanging under the eave of a Sake-shop?
The name of it is Sugidama, and is a symbol for the Sake-shop. The Sugidama is made from cedar leaves and is hung under the eaves of Sake-shops to announce that new sake has been made. The Sugidama’s changing of color from green to brown represents the maturity of the Sake and is also a signboard for the Sake-shop’s announcement.


Reason for making the Sugidama from cedar leaves

Omiwa jinja shrine is the oldest shrine in Japan and is located in Nara. The shrine treats Mt. Miwa as an object of worship and does not have a main hall, rather respecting Mt. Miwa through a worship hall based on the Koshinto style. The cedar tree is a sacred tree and Omiwa jinja is for the worship of the god of Sake and Toji (the producer of sake and head chef). The Tojis’ and brewers have beliefs that Omiwa jinja protects all parts of Japan. A Sake festival is held every November, so that many Sake brewery societies can visit to pray for safe brewing. After praying, they take a charm and the Sugidama that was made at the Omiwa jinja shrine.


A revelation in a dream with the Sake god

The reason Omiwa jinja shrine is believed to be the shrine for the Sake God is based on the story of Nihon Shoki.
During ancient times when Japan was disordered by plague, Emperor Sujin had a revelation in a dream that the god of Omiwa jinja (Ohmononushino-Ohkami) advised told him to brew sake for his son Ohtataneko as a votive offering. He then ordered Takahashi-Ikuihinomikoto to brew Sake for one night for Ohtataneko. After this offering, peace returned to Japan. From this story the Sake god, Ohmononushino-Ohkami and the brewing god, Takahashi-Ikuihinomikoto have both been enshrined at the Omiwa jinja shrine.


The birthplacee of refined Sake in Japan

In Japan the sake called Sobo-shu (monk’s sake) was brewed at major temples during the Heian to the Edo period. Among all the Sake temples, the major one is Shoryaku-ji temple in Nara. This is the Seishu (Sake) birthplace because the old method of brewing Sake still stands today.
If you visit Nara and drink Sake, please remember the Sake god of Mt. Miwa and the Monk’s Sake, available in major temples.


『Shoryaku-ji temple』, known as the birthplace of refined Sake

■Entrance fee: Shoryaku-ji temple Fukuju-in Kyakuden
Adult 500yen Child 100yen ( only an elementary school student )
Reduction for parties

Adult 400yen Child 150yen ( only an elementary school student )
※Reduction for parties applys from 20 persons as group worship




Shoryaku-ji, 157 Bodaisencho, Nara city, Nara

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Writer/ Translator

I love Japanese folkcraft article, traditional handicrafts and antiques. I’m seeking the Japanese people’s religious outlooks and its origins that are behind Japanese people’s unique sense and techniques rooted in the ordinary life.


Address Shoryaku-ji, 157 Bodaisencho, Nara city, Nara
Access About 20 minutes from JR and Kintestu Nara station by taxi About 18 minutes from JR and Kintestu Tenri station by taxi
Phone +81-0742-62-9569