What were the earliest Shinto rituals, "matsuri", like? Shinto seems to have begun around the fourth century, and developed in the fifth century. Around the turn of the eighth century, there is evidence for major changes in the Shinto rituals performed by the Japanese state, which in turn influenced other matsuri. So, the question for this essay is what we can say about matsuri between the fourth and seventh centuries. All of our written sources are from the eighth century or later, but there are reasons to think that some of them provide information about earlier practices. This essay looks at the evidence and what can be said. The essay is nearly 6,000 words long.
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