Tsubaki priests bless house, business in El Cerrito

By Mark Hobt

Rev. Tetsuji Ochiai and Yukihiko Tsumura of Tsubaki America in Stockton performed a house and business blessing ceremony for us April 19 in El Cerrito, a small town just outside Berkeley. The ceremony is called " Jimushoshinsetsu-Kiyoharai ". Our home-based business is called the Russell Mark Group; we are writers specializing in naming new companies and products.

Friends and neighbors joined us for the ceremony. Tetsuji and Yukihiko set up a small altar in the living room, where fruits, vegetables, sake, salt, and other foods were offered to Kami.

Tetsuji briefly explained the major beliefs of Shinto before beginning the ceremony. He then blessed each room in the house and, moving outside with us trailing behind, blessed the four corners of our yard and the front and back doors. after the ceremony we all sat down for lunch and conversation. Our friends and neighbors all commented on the beauty of the ceremony.

I first came into contact with Tsubaki Grand Shrine two years ago, while I was attending Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley. I was granted a scholarship to spend a month at Tsubaki Grand Shrine in Japan to study Shinto. My interest in Shinto began when I took Dr. Delmer Brown's class on Shinto at Starr King and I became very interested in Japanese culture as reflected in the Shinto religion.

One day during my time at the shrine in Japan, I saw the owner of a construction company enter the shrine office. He ordered signs to be drawn that would convey messages to his workers to be careful, to think of safety, and that Kami would watch over them. Later the business owner came back to the shrine to pick up these signs and make a donation. I was impressed with how the construction company owner wanted a spiritual element in his workplace, not only for himself but for the workers as well. Since our work is the means to our survival, I do not find it foreign to involve work and spirituality.

I first learned about this aspect of Japanese culture when I was in high school in Columbus, Ohio. My father worked for Conrail Freight Rail Corporation. He was instrumental in locating the Honda of America manufacturing facility in nearby Marysville, Ohio. He witnessed a Shinto business blessing when the building was not fully constructed; this is termed muneage-siki ( Jyoutousai ). My father came home that evening and explained the various components of the ceremony to us. I think it was at that time that I became interested in Japanese culture and religion.

I understand that Tsubaki America is increasingly busy performing a variety of ceremonies. I am pleased to see this interest in Shinto in the Bay Area as well as in Oregon and Washington. As I studied the principles of Shinto in Japan, it occurred to me that this religion would appeal to many people in California. Thus I am not surprised to see the positive reception the priests at Tsubaki America have received.

My wife and I wish to extend our thanks to Yukihiko and Tetsuji for the April 19th ceremony offering us a prayer for our business to be prosperous and our family healthy and happy. We have framed the prayer ( norito ) that Yukihiko wrote for the ceremony and have it displayed in our office. It is a reminder to bring the spiritual into all aspects of our life.