Monthly Archives: June 2013

Kuromanta Yama

Kuromanta coverThis book is by Suzuki Akira.

Kuromanta Yama is a man-made pyramid of seven layers built around four thousand years ago in Akita Ken.  The name ‘Kuramanta’ is not a Japanese word. It is probably from the Jomon. We visited in October 2010. . The pyramid shape was created by Jomon people who started with a natural hill, made seven layers, and then smoothed the sides. This was reported by a university team using x-ray techniques. The forest cover makes it look like a natural yama except for its symmetry. As we can see, the pyramid rises abruptly from the farmland plain.


The Motomiya Shrine crowns Kuromanta. Although ‘Motomiya’ was named after someone a thousand years ago, intriguingly enough it means ‘original shrine.’ It is said that there has been a shrine at the peak since ancient days. The peak is actually a flat area, as the photo below shows.


The torii announcing the entrance and path to Motomiya Jinja.

The shrine at the top appears as we climb the forested mountain. The shrine building is a simple wooden structure.


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Kuromanta map

Here is a map from the book. What we need is the location of Kuromanta. The closest we have found is that of Oyu stone circles nearby, 40.3N 140.8 E. Here, the solstice angle is 31.6 degrees.

You will first note that the cardinal directions are shifted by five degrees; the dark lines are the cardinal directions of the Jomon. This is due to their age of 4,100 years ago. Due to precession, the North Star at the time was Ryu-za alpha, Alpha Draconis (Thuban) in the constellation Draco the Dragon. Kuromanta pyramid mountain is at the center of the map. To its southwest is the location of the Oyu Stone Circles indicated by a dot in a circle. There are jinja to the east and west of Kuromanta. We saw the shrine to the east and it was rather unremarkable; no one living near it could say who the enshrined kami is (currently there is a ceramic state of a Bodhisattva). Then therere is the Kusaki Jinja to the south and the Kuromori-yama (Black Forest Mountain) up north – their north.

Note also the many other alignments the author has found – some of them are in directions of the solstice sunrises and sunsets. There are five lines leading to Inu-Hoeru-Mori (Barking Dog Forest). We wanted to go there but we could find no roads to take us. Wouldn’t you be curious too?

Another thing we’ve noticed is the heights of the mountains in this region. Kuromanta is not so tall at 280 m, There are taller mountains to the north (549m) and two to the east (768m and 646m), the 646m one being the Barking Dog Forest. There is also to the northeast, the White Mountain at 429m. in the northwest another pyramid mountain is indicated, at height 332m.

Aomori Ken lies at the northern end of Honshu.    Map_of_Japan_with_highlight_on_02_Aomori_prefecture.svg

The Princess and the Golden Rooster: A Legend

Once upon a time:  A golden rooster lived in Kyoto during the Heian period. It crowed every New Year’s Day during the four centuries of peace. Then, in the year 1093, war broke out and the golden rooster flew away.

The Princess Kogane-Hime, a devout Buddhist who missed the rooster, faced Hiei-zan. She heard a message:  Go to a mountain of waterfalls. So she traveled far and long and finally reached Hida-Kanayama at the end of the year.

She could hear the voice of the rooster, but search as she did, she could not see it. She went from one waterfall to another: The Shirataki and the Ni-no-taki, and finally a third waterfall. She stood under the water to purify herself. Suddenly, she heard the golden rooster.

The falls she stood under became known as Keimei-taki of Yokotani Gorge.

Although the rooster refused to return to Kyoto, Kogane-Hime gathered some herbs for her ailing mother and went back to Kyoto in time to save her mother. The princess became known for her compassion and was regarded as the goddess of children.

People would come to Komori Jinja near Keimei Falls to pray to the great Komori goddess when their children became ill. After the children recovered their health, in gratitude, they brought rooster images to Komori Jinja.

The day before the summer solstice 2012, we visited the White Waterfall (Shira Taki) and the Double Waterfall (Ni no Taki). Due to the rain, we had to by-pass Keimei Taki.

In 2013, we were able to go to Keimei Falls. There is a hokura at the top of the path down to the pool where the taki falls. It is a beautiful waterfall. There is a lot of water coming down, so it must have been quite a feat for the princess to stand under it. There is a small pavilion where we had a bento lunch surrounded by verdant sugi and hinoki trees. Other than the structure and the path, the rest is as nature had it a thousand years ago when the princess stood under the falls.

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Hida: Roots of Nihon, Part 2

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Takamagahara, the mythical Plain of High Heaven, is not in outer space or Heaven, but it is here on earth; not on the Asian continent but in Nihon. There are iseki ruins which indicate that Takamagahara is right here in Hida. Because Hida’s tall mountains saved the people.

A third cold wave occurred with a great deal of snow in Hida. There was a meeting of the leaders of the land to consider moving to a more southerly and warmer climate. The family of the Sumera Mikoto spread out to different areas. Amatsu Hikone no Mikoto went to the area we know as Hikone in Omi (Shiga-ken), where he established Taga Taisha. Izanagi and Izanami went to Mie-ken, and that is where Izanagi died.

Ninigi no Mikoto went to Tsukushi (Kyushu); Nigihayahi went to Kawachi province (now Osaka). Both had Tokusa no Jingi so that their descendants would know that they were related. The Jingi included the feathered arrow, Ame no Habaya; and Ame no Kahiyuki footwear.

Hirume/Amaterasu had a dream that there were three streams of invaders on Tsukushi. Because her dreams were highly regarded by the people, it was decided to first send three princesses and check it out. After eight years the princesses returned with confirmation. So Ninigi was sent with a large group of young couples from Hida to settle and develop the land in Tsukushi.

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A conflict ensued between descendants of Ninigi and Nigihayahi which ended when they realized that both sides held the Tokusa no Jingi and were thus related. Nigiyahahi’s brother-in-law Nagasunehiko was allowed to go to Tohoku where he became the king of Arahabaki. [Arahabaki are sometimes referred to as visitor kami, perhaps because they came from elsewhere.]

A descendant of Ninigi, Sanu no Mikoto (his childhood name) became Takehito/Iwawarehiko and is posthumously known as emperor Jimmu. He, too, received the kurai-ita upon his enthronement. Jimmu’s two brothers remained in Tsukushi.

Queen Himiko of Tsukushi was a descendant of the younger of Jimmu’s brother Mikinuma no Mikoto, 239-266 CE. She sent a messenger to Gi (China) and is mentioned in the Gishi Wajinden. The Gishi mis-spelled her land ‘Yamato’ as ‘Yamatai’, and that is how Yamatai entered the history of Japan.

The ancient people of Nihon surely faced difficulties and hard work during their long history. Yet, the philosophy they practiced entailed living compassionately and contentedly without complaining and always looking to a bright future.

Can we learn a lesson from these people?

Sakai’s List of Japanese Pyramids

Sakai Katsutoki published a book, The Pyramids of Japan, in 1934. Here is his list of 12 pyramid mountains.

  1.  葦嶽山/広島県     Ashitake Yama, Hiroshima
  2. 尖山/富山県     Togari yama, Toyama
  3. 位山/岐阜県     Kuraiyama, Gifu
  4. 五葉山/岩手県     Goyosan, Iwate
  5. 大石神/青森県     Oishigami, Aomori
  6. 黒又山/秋田県     Kuromanta yama, Akita
  7. 三瓶山/島根県     Sanbin yama, Shimane
  8. 剣山/徳島県     Tsurugi san, Tokushima
  9. 日室ガ嶽/京都府     Himurogatake, Kyoto fu
  10. 皆神山/長野県     Minakami yama, Nagano
  11. 千貫森/福島県     Sengan mori, Fukushima
  12. 八幡山/兵庫県     Hachiman yama, HyogoSakai pyramid map_0001

A Japanese pyramid is said to have three characteristics.

1.  It is triangular in profile. While Egyptian and Mayan pyramids have square bases, Japanese pyramids usually have a circular base although there are square ones as well.

2.  At the mountain peak are iwakura, rock seats where kami are said to descend. These are not only large stones, they are megaliths. They may be arranged in different ways. For example, some are menhirs, others are table-formed, others are stone circles.

3.  Since the iwakura are sacred, there is usually a worship location to pray to the kami of the mountain.

We believe that before there was Shinto, or even Koshinto, the spiritual practice of the ancient people was to connect with the universe on mountaintops. Later, when shrine building were erected, they were situated with certain alignments, east-west being a favored one. Also favored were solsticial alignments. At the latitudes of the archipelago, the directions would have been 30 degrees north and south of east.

Kosaka: Pyramid Mountains of Japan

Kosaka Takenouchi cover

KOSAKA Wado has given a list of fifteen prominent pyramid mountains of Japan. There are many others as an Internet search in Japanese will show. Pyramid mountains are man-made pyramids. Japanese made pyramids have a conical shape with a circular base. They are constructed out of natural mountains or built in layers of stone. Covered with soil, they have come to appear like natural forests over time.

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1 Tosako Aomori
2 Kuromanta Aomori
3 Goyosan Iwate
4 Minakamiyama Nagano
5 Ohyama Kanagawa
6 Ashitakayama Shizuoka
7 Togariyama Toyama
8 Takayayama Gifu
9 Kuraiyama Gifu
10 Himurogadake Kyoto-Fu, Tanba
11 Misen Hiroshima (Itsukushima)
12 Ashitakeyama Hiroshima (Shobara no Honmura)
13 Miwayama Nara
14 Yamato Sanzan Nara
15 Tsurugisan Tokushima

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Left to right:  Pyramid mountains Kuraiyama, Kuromanta, Himurogatake. (c) Okunomichi

See the pyramid list of Sakai and Kosaka.



Kuraiyama, Sacred Pyramid Mountain

Kuraiyama, 36 degrees N, 1529 m, is said to be a pyramid mountain. Moreover, it is claimed by the Takenouchi Documents as the site where extra-terrestrial ancestors touched down. Its name, crown, refers to its regal status in prehistoric annals. More exactly, ‘kurai’ means ranking, and this is the number one ranking. The ichi-i (again, number one) tree grows here. From the wood is made the mace of the emperor.

We have learned more about Kuraiyama since we began this post. See ‘Roots of Japan.’

Kuraiyama has been rudely treated by being partially denuded to accommodate a ski resort. However, it is said to still have a number of interesting megaliths on top. Click on the map to see it enlarged. Eerie stories have circulated about mysterious lights and even more mysterious strangers.

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Here’s more about the megaliths. Megaliths were brought to the mountain by the leaders of the people of Hida. Generations of such leaders have been buried around these boulders. This accounts for why Kuraiyama is such a sacred mountain. Its shrine is the Minashi Jinja, q.v.

Oyu Stone Circles

Oyu stone circles were made by Jomon people thousands of years ago. They have solsticial markers. There are two major circles.  Here is the first, called Manza.

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Look closely at the mountain in the third and fourth photos. It is Kuromanta yama.

This is the second site, Nonaka.

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This standing stone is surrounded by directional stones. Note how the Japanese stone circles differ from the European ones. For one, the standing stones are not so tall. For another, they have this type of arrangement of stones. Do you see the cardinal directions in the photo below? This circle is said to have solstice directions which are, at this latitude, thirty degrees from east-west.


Akita is near the northern end of Honshu.

Minashi Jinja 水無神社

Minashi Jinja is ichinomiya of Hida no Kuni. It has a close relationship with its sacred mountain, Kuraiyama. We show only a few photos from our visit to Minashi Jinja. We had barely arrived and had not even made our way to offer a prayer when a thunderstorm burst forth. Stunned, we noticed a priest in a white garment waving to us from the shrine office. We took shelter and talked with him. He was a young middle-ager and we ventured to ask about ancient secrets hidden in shrines. He admitted that he would like to know if there are any. After purchasing some amulets and collecting the spring water he suggested to us, we bid him goodbye for it had stopped raining. Before we left, he said that the rain was the way of the kami showing us their pleasure that we visited. It seemed a lovely sentiment and we were very grateful.

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Roots Hida map

This map is from Roots of Nihon. See our two posts. At the top is Awayama. At the bottom is Kuraiyama and to the left of its peak is shown Minashi Jinja. Note Hida-gawa flowing to the right.

Minashi Jinja is so named – ‘no-water shrine’ – because it is bunsei, a place where a river divides into two. It implies that the land is central and at a high enough elevation that rivers flow away from it.

Maruyama Jinja and Funa-iwa 丸山神社 鮒岩

Maruyama Jinja 丸山神社 is a very unusual shrine. It is located in Nakatsugawa City, Gifu, in a flat plain of villages and farms. Maruyama is more of a hill than a mountain, and rises abruptly from the plain, like a bowl turned upside-down on a table. Its name, round, indicates its shape. Some say it is an artificial mound.

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Even more unusual are the many boulders of megalith size on this hill. The most astounding one is a twenty-ton stone fish. The name of the megalith, Funa, means carracius carp, although it looks more like a whale because the eye is set low in the head. The broadside of the carp/whale faces south. One of the megaliths on top has a split pointing due north.


There is a torii at the bottom of the hill, and a kaidan going up. You can also follow a string of small red torii similar to those at the famous Fushimi Inari Jingu in Kyoto. At the top, there is the worship hall but there is no guji on the premises. You can walk amongst the many boulders, and make your way to the tail of the fish. There are cupules carved into the tail. One archaeologist says they represent the Big Dipper constellation.

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