Wishing for prosperity in business

Morijio: the placing of salt by the entrance to one's establishment to bring good luck

Morijio is a custom close to the heart of the Japanese people.

Have you ever seen a dish containing a small pile of salt placed inside or at the entrance to a Japanese restaurant?
This is a Japanese custom known in Japanese as morijio or morishio, literally an “accumulation of salt”.

Salt has long been considered sacred by the Japanese as an essential part of any offering to the kami, or deities of Shinto. The custom of placing a small dish of salt just inside or outside the entrance of the home or business establishment is still practiced today for the dual purpose of engikatsugi - bringing good luck, as well as yakuyoke - warding off bad luck.

Ise in Mie Prefecture is considered a special place in Shintoism, the extant religion of Japan since ancient times.
Ise is home to Yosuke Kawanishi, a Shinto priest and the managing director of Miyachu. Miyachu is a company has been making kamidana - sacred shelves for housing small Shinto altars in the home or place of work, as well as utensils for Shinto rituals, for over 80 years. This is how Kawanishi explains the culture of morijio.

"In Shinto, nature and God are considered as one. A spirit of reverence and gratitude for nature is deeply rooted in the heart of the Japanese people. The custom of using salt, which is a blessing from nature and essential for human life, is one of the traditions that express the spirit of the Japanese people, who recognize the power of the unseen in every aspect of their lives."

Yosuke Kawanishi of Miyachu, a store specializing in making kamidana and sacred objects for Shinto rituals.

Craftsmen carefully make sacred objects by hand at Miyachu.

The Two Meanings of Morijio

There are two main types of morijio

Salt can be used for purification. In Japan, salt is believed to purify bad or unsettled spirits.
For example, there is a custom of sprinkling salt on one's body after attending a funeral. Another example is when building a new house, salt is sprinkled on the ground before the foundations are laid. Before a bout of sumo wrestling, the national sport of Japan, wrestlers sprinkle salt on the ring.
A small pile of salt can be placed at the entrance of the house or in the kitchen to cleanse the spirit and to improve one's luck.

The second type of morijio is used to attract people to an establishment, obstensibly for good fortune in business. The salt placed at the entrances of restaurants and lodging facilities is mainly to offer wishes for many customers and guests.
There are various origins to this practice, but one theory is that it comes from a Chinese anecdote, in which people placed salt, which cows like to lick, at the entrance so that the ox cart carrying the First Emperor of the Qin Dynasty would stop in front of the house.

How to form a morijio salt pile

The salt used for morijio should be the kind that easily firms up. You may find it easier to form the salt into a good shape if it is slightly moist. It is recommended to replace the morijio with a new arrangement every one to two weeks to avoid it getting affected by dust and humidity.
Originally, the morijio was formed by hand or with a spatula, but nowadays people often use a mold called a morijio katame-ki to form a more beautiful shape.

Here is an explanation of how to use a morijio mold. First, moisten the salt slightly and put it into the mold, using a spatula to gently press the salt in. Remove any excess salt, cover the base of the now full mold with the small plate, and turn it right-side up. Then gently remove the mold and your beautiful morijio arrangement is complete.

Miyachu is known as the first company to market morijio katame-ki molds.
Miyachu makes two types: a pyramidal type made of natural fine-grain hinoki cypress from the Kiso valley, and a conical type made of plantation cypress called ji-hinoki, which has a slightly rougher grain.

Kawanishi says, "About 30 years ago, I received a request from a customer who visited my store, which led to the birth of the morijio katame-ki mold. Traditionally, morijio used to be conical, and only the morijio dedicated at Ise Jingu Shrine was formed in a pyramidal shape. Our pyramidal mold is popular with visitors to Ise Jingu Shrine."

Demand for Morijio Goods

In addition to the morijio katame-ki molds, Miyachu also sells morijio plates, which are available in a variety of colors chosen for their significance in feng shui.

A colorful morijio plate. Gold and silver versions are also available.

According to Kawanishi, these days many people, not just business proprietors, are buying morijio-related products for their homes.
He says, “Since the pandemic, people are spending more and more time at home.
As a reaction to COVID-19, many people may have started placing morijio in their homes because they wanted the added security of an ancient, invisible force in addition to washing and disinfecting their hands."

Nowadays, portable morijio sets are available, making it convenient to make morijio even when traveling on business.
The development of utensils for making morijio reflects how Japanese culture has been passed down from generation to generation while adapting to the changing living environment and lifestyles of the day.

The Miyachu main store at Ise is lined with products related to morijio.

The Miyachu main store and the Okage Yokocho store are both located near Ise Jingu Shrine and are popular with visitors.

Kawanishi says, "I want people to be exposed to the Japanese culture of morijio, especially today, when people often don't have much time in their busy lives to stop and take a moment to nurture their spirit.
I believe that we can maintain our mental balance by seeking comfort in our surroundings.
The custom of morijio can help us to enrich our own lives."
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