Monthly Archives: November 2016

Kyoto: Hebizuka Kofun


Hebizuka Kofun  蛇塚古墳(へびづかこふん) is the largest kofun tumulus (burial mound) from the 6th to 7th century in the Kyoto area. It is of keyhole type, and what remains is only the central stone structure of the mound. It was surrounded by a moat. Hebizuka is located in the outskirts of Kyoto known as Uzumasa, Sagano in the Arashiyama district.

The megaliths that make up the structure are sedimentary rock from Tamba in Kyoto-Fu, a distance away. Although they are not dressed, they are carefully fitted into place. The long dimension is 75 m with a chamber of 17 to 18 m and a low linear passageway.



First view of kofun

The kofun is in a residential area and is very difficult to find, even with directions received from the nearest police station. In this first view photo, this end is the burial chamber, now open to the sky. The kofun is surrounded by a wire fence, and there’s hardly any spare land around it.

After circling the fenced site, we were fortunate to meet the woman who is the keeper of the key so that we could enter the kofun. It feels much larger on the inside, perhaps because we are surrounded by huge rocks. The burial chamber is very tall, while the passageway is low.

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Kyoto Shrines: Matsunoo, Tsukiyomi, Kaiko no Yashiro, Umenomiya

There are many notable shrines in Kyoto. Matsunoo Taisha is well known, but the Tsukiyomi Jinja next door is not. There is an interesting shrine which is popularly known as Kaiko no Yashiro, Shrine of Silkworms. And a shrine for sake brewers. Let’s visit them.

Matsunoo Taisha (Matsuo Taisha) 松尾大社


This is the entrance to Matsunoo Taisha with Mt Matsunoo behind it. There are marvelous iwakura megaliths on the mountain top, but the megaliths are hard to get to. In the center of the grounds is the kagura pavilion.

The enshrined deity is Oyamakui no Kami, kami of large mountains and kami of sake brewing. Also enshrined is Nakatsushima-hime (Ichikishima-hime), guardian of travelers. There is a sakaya on the premises.


A stream flows through the precincts, crossed by a number of bridges beneath shady trees. Matsunoo is lovely through all seasons of the year.

Tsukiyomi Jinja  月読神社

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Adjacent is the small shrine of Tsukiyomi, mythological kami of the moon月. This is a charming shrine in a small grove of trees. This shrine is associated with the Tsukiyomi main shrine on the island of Iki in Nagasaki-ken, Kyushu. Although Tsukiyomi is not a popular kami (he gets short shrift by the chronicles), it seems that his time is coming. Although a male kami, he is nonetheless the representative of the moon and feminine qualities of gentleness and calm.

Kaiko no Yashiro 蚕之社 (Konoshima Jinja)

This mysterious shrine bears the formal name Konoshima Amateru Mitama Jinja. It is a shrine to the silkworm, kaiko 蚕, thus its popular name, Kaiko no Yashiro. It is said to be a shrine of the Hata clan of 8th century Kyoto, descendants of the Qin dynasty in China, who brought sericulture to Japan. Although there is no priest on-site, many people come to see the unusual three-pillared torii, said to represent the Trinity of Christianity. The torii stands in a pond which has not been filled for a long period of time.

Making the shrine even more mysterious, a signboard states that the enshrined kami are Amenominakanushi, Ookunitama, Hohodemi, and Ugayafukiaezu. This is an unusual assortment of kami beginning with the original nonphysical ancestor-kami and ending with two probably historical figures. This shrine is more ancient than it is documented to be.

Umenomiya Taisha  梅宮大社(うめのみやたいしゃ)

This shrine of plums 梅 was first built in the 8th century by Agata-no-inukai-no-mikchiyo to enshrine her ancestors. The final move to Ukyouku in Kyoto was ordered by Tachibana-no-Kachiko, consort of Emperor Saga, 786-850.

The deities are Oyamazumi-no-mikoto, his daughter Konohana-no-sakuyahime-no-mikoto, her spouse Ninigi-no-mikoto, and their son Hikohohodemi-no-mikoto. Oyamazumi is also known as Sakatoke-no-kami, for brewing sake for Konohana when she gave birth to Hikohohodemi. Thus this shrine is popular to sake brewers. Notice all the barrels of sake? These are actually kazaridaru, empty of sake but full of spiritual significance. Read about  kazaridaru  here,


The grounds are said to be very beautiful, but we did not have time to visit the gardens. We did notice the splendid display of fragrant sweet olive known as kin-mokusei (Osmanthus fragrans) which perfumes the autumn air in Kyoto. 





At the Shrine of Plums

the fragrance of autumn is

golden sweet olive

On the way to the car, we stopped to pay our respects at the small 西梅津神明社 shrine to Amaterasu and Toyoke-kami.



Rokkosan:  Mukoyama and Mukatsuhime

The modern city of Kobe lies between the Rokkosan 六甲山 mountains and the sea. In a previous post, we wrote about the megaliths of Rokkosan. These mountains are the locale of a fascinating story with both historical and linguistic interest.

Hotsuma History.  During the times of Amateru Amakami in the Hotsuma Tsutae document, the mountains were known as Mukoyama, and the peak as Mukatsu-mine. The land of Muko was the domain of the Kanasaki family. When Isanami and Isanagi were unable to keep their first-born daughter Hiruko, they sent her to Kanasaki for fostering. There, Hiruko was lovingly raised and taught the art of waka poetry. Hiruko became so skilled with the kototama word power of waka that she became known as Wakahime. The area of Muko is called Hirota, perhaps because of her fostering. For his kindness, Kanasaki is known as Sumiyoshi Kami.

Wakahime was the elder sister of Amateru. Amateru led his people for many long years. When he felt his life’s end nearing, he sent his beloved wife Seoritsuhime to Hirota. There, she peacefully passed her remaining years in these mountains until “her spirit ascended.”

Linguistic Changes.  Seoritsuhime is Mukatsuhime. The latter name appears in several places. In the Takenouchi Documents, it is アマサカリ ヒニ ムカイツ ヒメ ノミヒカリ アマツ ヒツギ アメノ スメラミコトAmasakari hini mukaitsu hime no mihikari amatsu hitsugi ame no sumera mikoto. The principal deity of Hirota Jinja is the aramitama wrathful spirit of Amateru Ookami, named ツキサカキ イツノ ミタマ アマサカル ムカツヒメ ノ ミコトTsukisakaki-itsuno mitama amasakaru mukatsuhime no mikoto.

How did Mukoyama change its name to Rokkosan? Please keep in mind that Woshite, the language of Hotsuma, was syllabic when spoken and when written in Woshite moji characters. Much later, Woshite writing fell out of use and was replaced by the kanji imported from China. The name Mukoyama 六甲山 when written in kanji  can be read, Sino-wise, as Rokkosan.

Jinja Shrines.  These shrines all have Mukatsuhime as their enshrined kami.

Hirota Jinja 広田神社 is located in Nishinomiya adjacent to Kobe. hirota-jinja_nishinomiya05n3200While it enshrines the aramitama of Amateru-kami, Mukatsuhime, it also honors Sumiyoshi-kami whom we know as Kanasaki.

Rokkohime Jinja 六甲比命神社 = Mukatsuhime Jinja.  This shrine is on the mountain. Its deity is Benzaiten. [Wikipedia: Benzaiten is the goddess of everything that flows: water, time, words, speech, eloquence, music and by extension, knowledge.]  Many believe that she is a later Buddhist version of Mukatsuhime.

Mukatsu Jinja (Ishi-no-houden) is a sessha sub-shrine of Hirota Jinja so that naturally, its gosaishin is Mukatsuhime.

Mukoyama Jinja 六甲山神社 is also a sessha with gosaishin Mukatsuhime.


Rokkohime Daizen Jinja 六甲比命大善神社 (ろっこうひめだいぜんじんじゃ) = Mukohime Jinja 六甲比女(むこひめ)神社. Benzaiten is worshipped there. There is a huge iwakura goshintai on which is carved the Buddhist Heart Sutra. Some say that Mukatsuhime’s tomb is here, and the Sutra is in her memory. This shrine is the okunoin of Tamonji Temple in Kobe which forms a line  between the temple and the shrine to the summer solstice setting sun.


Photos are from Japanese Wikipedia.

Sources include


Kanayama Megaliths Guidebook has been published! 

Kanayama Megaliths Research Center has published its guidebook — in full color!

Iwaya-Iwakage of Kanayama Megaliths



As you know, the Kanayama Megaliths are the home of an extremely accurate solar calendar. This guidebook,


by Yoshiki Kobayashi and Shiho Tokuda, Sangokan, Japan, 2016

was published in September 2016, and has already sold out its first printing at Amazon Japan. Its 72 pages are in full color and lavishly illustrated with Tokuda’s photos, charts, and illustrations. The book takes the reader to all three of the Kanayama Megalith sites: Higashi-no-yama, Senkoku-ishi, and Iwaya-Iwakage, and through all the seasons. The solar calendar of the Jomon who made this megalithic astronomic observatory is explained. Even the recently-analyzed leap-year cycle of 128 years is described. The back cover is the observational solar calendar. It shows at a glance the observations that take place at a given date at each of the three sites. This guidebook is immensely valuable to the many visitors at Kanayama…

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Takinomiya, Shrine of the Waterfall

The famous Tetsugaku-no-michi, Philosopher’s Path, is less well-traversed at its southern end, although even further south are the well-known Eikando and Nanzenji Temples. Glimpses of these temples were seen in the previous post, Higashiyama. This time we explore two shrines, the Kumano Nyakuoji Jinja and the Takinomiya.

Southern end of Tetsugaku-no-michi

Kumano Nyakuoji Jinja

This is one of three Kumano shrines in Kyoto. This shrine, established in 1160 by Emperor Go-Shirakawa, is the guardian of the Nyakuoji mountain area. It is also the guardian shrine of Zenrin-ji in the nearby Eikando Temple. It’s woodsy here, and the grounds are known for sakura in spring and colors in autumn.

dsc02697-nyakuoji-jinjaThis is the front entrance to the Kumano Nyakuoji Jinja. The back exit opens onto a road going up the mountain, past some homes, and takes you to the beginning of a kaidan flight of stairs to the torii of Takinomiya.


At the top of the kaidan is a flat area with  hokora small shrines nestled under the trees.

There’s another kaidan, leading to a higher level. This one ends at a red torii which is in front of the Takinomiya shrine. This is a shrine to taki, waterfalls. Here, surrounded by nature, it feels pretty removed from busy Kyoto. As we pray before this shrine, we hear the sound of waterfalls. Walking to our right, we peer over the edge and glimpse a waterfall and a red shrine below.


We retrace our steps to the bottom of the two kaidans and follow the sound of water. There is still another shrine. We feel the magic of Seoritsuhime, guardian of waterfalls, and we linger for a while. Finally with a sigh, we head out to join the Tetsugaku-no-michi.



Kyoto: Higashiyama Area

dsc02679-yudofu This area is at the foothills of Higashiyama, the mountain range to the east of Kyoto. We recently had the pleasureto walk along the canal, heading east to Nanzenji and north to Eikando Temple. Here are some quintessentially Kyoto scenes along the way.