In every home on these days sake is poured as an offering into the o-mikidokkuri, and in the vases of the kamidana are placed sprays of the holy sakaki, or sprigs of pine, or fresh flowers. But only the ancient gods of Shinto are worshipped before the kamidana.
Young lads came first, carrying Shinto emblems little white flags, and branches of the sacred sakaki; and after the coffin the mother walked, a young peasant, crying very loud, and wiping her eyes with the long sleeves of her coarse blue dress.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, the sakaki branches used in it were eagerly bid for, and sold at high prices, being believed to possess talismanic virtues. It nearly always happened that there was a great storm either on the day the Kokuzo went to Oba, or upon the day he returned therefrom.
When Amaterasu retired into a cave, magatama were hung from the branches of a sakaki tree to assist in enticing her out. Several other reverential allusions are made to the jewels in later times. Mention is also made of rakan, but the meaning of the term is obscure. Probably it was a variety of jade. The pottery found in the Yamato tombs is somewhat more instructive than the personal ornaments.
The plum-tree of whose emblematic meaning I said something in a former paper about Japanese gardens is not invariably used, however; sometimes sakaki, the sacred plant of Shinto, is substituted for it; and sometimes only pine and bamboo form the kadomatsu.
Before the miya, or whatever holy object of Shinto worship be placed upon the kamidana, are set two quaintly shaped jars for the offerings of sake; two small vases, to contain sprays of the sacred plant sakaki, or offerings of flowers; and a small lamp, shaped like a tiny saucer, where a wick of rush-pith floats in rape-seed oil.
The signification of the yuzuri-leaf I explained in a former paper. But the great domestic display of the festival is the decoration of the kamidana the shelf of the Gods. Before the household miya are placed great double rice cakes; and the shrine is beautiful with flowers, a tiny shimekazari, and sprays of sakaki.