In search of Toyoke, in June 2012, we visited Taga Jinja in Tagajo City, Miyagi ken. Southeast of the Mutsu government ruins, it is next to the Tagajo old temple ruins. It is listed in the Engishiki. Previously, in 2010 we had seen the two small Taga jinjas at the Mutsu government ruins, also in Tagajo City. At that time, we had felt Toyoke’s presence. But further study indicated that there is a Taga Taisha in Omi, now Shiga-ken, and that it was split off from a Taga Jinja in Mutsu. We now believe that this Taga Jinja is the origin of the large taisha in Shiga.
We parked in front of a large public space which turned out to be the iseki ruins of a ceremonial site of which little is known; the local government is calling it an old temple site, even though they have no evidence that it is Buddhist. Walking out to the road, we saw a sign indicating that the Taga Jinja was this way. This is the first view we had; notice the ‘old temple site’ on the left. We see the white sign and the torii entrance on the right.
The jinja is quite charming. Should we call it a hokura instead? It’s barely large enough for one person to pray at. If you enlarge the fourth photo by clicking on it, you’ll see the sun and moon carved into the doors of the haiden-honden (there is no separate honden).
We stayed for a while here because it felt so serene and comforting.
Mr. Takabatake of Japan Translation Center says that the Taga jinjas are the former palaces of Amateru’s son and heir, Oshihomimi. ‘Taga’ is the posthumous name of Isanagi. ‘Ta’ means to order, to put right, to save. ‘Ga’ means darkness. Thus, Taga would mean to put darkness to order.
We wanted next to see the famous iris gardens of Tagajo City, so we parked near the train station and started walking. On the way, we came to the hill – or is it a man-made mound? – that we had seen on our earlier trip. We decided to take a short cut by going up then down the other side. The kaidan turned out to be the entrance to a small shrine. Tonight’s research revealed its name, Ukishima Jinja, and that it is somehow connected to Taga Jinja. Was it a coincidence?
We walked down the other side of the hill and across two roads and finally found the iris growing in profusion. We had missed the peak season, but it was splendid just the same.