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Age Old “Laughing Ritual” At Hiraoka Shrine In Osaka

Recently, I came across an interesting live video broadcast on Facebook. It was about an unusual “Laughing ritual” practiced in Japan. Every year on 23rd December, about 3000 people get together and laugh for no reason for 20 minutes, to commemorate the birthday of Japanese emperor.

It is age old Japanese myth, according to which laughter has its origins in the legend of the sun goddess Amaterasu, who had secluded herself in a cave and the Gods had laughed together to coax her out of it. They placed a Shimenawa (Shinto rope) on the cave to prevent Amaterasu from ever hiding herself away there again. Known popularly as the “Laughing Ritual” or “Owarai-shinji,” the ceremony consists of removing the old Shimenawa rope and purifying a new one before joining together to literally laugh off all of the events of the old year, greeting the new year with positivity and enthusiasm.

Many Laughter Yoga enthusiasts attend this festival every year. Surprisingly, this ritual is quite similar to the Laughter Yoga practice of doing unconditional laughter. As this practice has been telecast on Japanese television for years, many people are aware about it. Perhaps, this may be the reason that Laughter Yoga is becoming more and more popular in Japan.