Back exhausted from the shinsa, but before I fall into a coma I wanted to (probably) correct something I wrote earlier. What I had been told at that point was that, if the person ahead of you in your group makes an error, you’re supposed to take responsibility for yourself, and do the right thing. So if, when you’re entering the shajo, the o-mae person in your group walks too far, past the point where she should turn and approach the honza, you can’t just follow her. You have to stop at the correct place.
From that I inferred that you should always do the right thing at the right time, even if it conflicts with group harmony. But it turns out that it’s not so simple. There is an overriding rule: you should never get ahead of the person in front of you when going through a sequence of movements that you’re all supposed to complete together.
So for a practical example, you’re in a group of five at a shinsa, and you’re the second person. The first, second, and third person are all supposed to raise their bows at the tsurune of the fourth person, right? So what do you (#2) do if the o-mae doesn’t raise her bow at the proper time? It turns out there are two answers:
- If she raises her bow too soon, then you must wait, with your bow still down (urahazu on the floor), until the correct time to raise your bow.
- If she raises her bow too late, which is to say, fails to raise her bow at the tsurune of the fourth person, then you must wait (urahazu still on the floor) until the o-mae finally realizes what’s happened and raises her bow. The point being, that if you raised your bow at the “proper” time, you would be getting ahead of o-mae in the sequence of movements, and maintaining the proper ma (timing) takes priority.
So no matter where you are in the order, it turns out that you have to stay alert, and think your way through these things. It’s not just theoretical, either. Today we had about 120 people taking the shinsa, and both of those situations came up, as well as a few others. It was an unusual day.