Author Archives: Okunomichi

About Okunomichi

Okunomichi represents a group of seekers of sacred wisdom of the East. We are focusing primarily on the wisdom of ancient Japan, when there was not even a nation by that name. Yet, over a long period of time, an advanced civilization grew and developed high levels of understanding of the universe and how to live in harmony. This knowledge, these teachings, have been hard to discover for us in the West. We are finding them, and we are sharing them, with you.

Kototama of Wosite and Hotsuma

Kototama

Kototama, which is written in kanji as 言霊, is the study and practice of the energy/power in words and speech. Kototama can be translated as “the spirit of words,” and as “the language of Spirit.” Kototama refers to the power of human words to create, to create things. Okunomichi has several posts on this topic and they can be found by using the Search box to the right and entering “Kototama”.

Wosite Language

The Wosite language used in writing the Hotsuma Tsutae, the Futomani, and the Mikasafumi documents is a Kototama language. Wosite studies are posted at https://woshiteworld.wordpress.com/. Recently, WoshiteWorld has published posts on the Kototama of Hotsuma and Wosite. They are: “The Kototama of Wosite,” and ““Process of Kototama”. In addition, there is a discussion of the waka poetry of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken.

 

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Ōharano Jinja  大原野神社

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Ōharano Jinja  大原野神社

Ōharano Shrine is a Shinto shrine located in Nishikyō-ku, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan. Ōharano is dedicated to Amenokoyane, who composed the Mikasahumi document in Wosite.

Amenokoyane

Amenokoyane was a great-great-grandson of Toyoke Kami. He was named the first Kagami Tomi by Amateru Amakami. His responsibility was to discern light (ka) from dark (ga) and to keep society on the Amenaru Path. Amenokoyane received the honor name, Kasuga Kami. He was buried at the ancient Hiraoka Jinja in Osaka. Later in 768, he was enshrined at the Kasuga Taisha in Heijō-kyo (Nara) by his descendants, the Fujiwara. The capital was at Heijō-kyo from 710–40 and from 745–84. 

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Emperor Kanmu transfered the capital from Heijō-kyo to Nagaoka-kyo (784-794). Nagaoka-kyo was located in the current Mukō  City and Nishikyō-ku which is part of Kyoto City. Kanmu enshrined Kasuga Myojin here at Ōharano Jinja. The main shrine building was constructed in the year 850 in the style of the Kasuga Taisha. There are four handsome honden behind the haiden prayer hall. We can only see the tips of two sets of chigi. The four enshrined kami are (1) Takemikazuchi, (2) Futsunushi, (3) Amenokoyane (Kasuga Kami) and (4) his wife, Hime Kasuga.

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Koisawa-ike

The Koisawa-ike Pond was built as a facsimile of the Kasuga Taisha’s Sarusawa-ike. It is a famous spot for viewing colored leaves. Overlooking the pond is Wakamiya auxiliary shrine which honors Ameno-oshi-kumone-no-mikoto, son of Amenokoyane. 

DSC06117 Wakamiya Sha

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Ōharano Jinja is a lovely spot for autumn colors and for feeling a connection with the spirit of the wise Amenokoyane.

Map

https://www.behance.net/gallery/69551523/KYOTO-OHARANO-JINJA-MAP

 

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Seoritsuhime and Sakunado Jinja

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Sakunado Jinja, 2018.10

Lake Biwa

Sakunado Jinja 佐久奈度神社 is an integral part of the Lake Biwa river system of Shiga Prefecture. Biwako, as the lake is called, is the largest lake in all Japan. The lake was called Awaumi in olden times, and gradually the pronunciation changed so that the area around the lake is called Ōmi. The area has been occupied since at least the Initial Jōmon period (~9300 years ago). Biwako has only one major outlet, the Setagawa  瀬田川, which becomes the Uji 宇治川 downstream, then the Yodo 淀川, before it flows into the Seto Inland Sea at Osaka.

Sakunado Jinja  佐久奈度神社

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Sakunado Jinja overlooks the Setagawa. It is the shrine that ‘oversees’ the river system. The enshrined kami are the four haraedo purification kami, the first and foremost of them being Seoritsuhime 瀬織津姫. Note that the first syllable, the first character, in the name of Seoritsuhime and of Setagawa is Se, which means swift current. 

Setagawa River

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The view of the Setagawa from Sakunado Jinja looks peaceful. However, just upstream to the right (the east) of this spot is the treacherous bend with its strong undertow. Many young people have lost their lives playing here.

SakunadoJinjaMap

Sakunado Jinja is at the bottom of this map, where the Setagawa turns west. Note that the Setagawa drains southward out of Lake Biwa near Ishiyama. Downstream from the Sakunado, the river’s name changes to Ujigawa, Uji River, as it flows into Kyoto. The Uji merges with two other rivers, the Katsura–gawa and the Kizugawa in Kyoto Prefecture. The Katsura has its headwaters in the mountains of Kyoto Prefecture, while the Kizu comes from Mie Prefecture. Starting from the confluence of these three rivers, the main river becomes the Yodo River. It flows south, through the city of Osaka, into Osaka Bay. The length of the river is 75 km (47 mi). 

Oharai Norito

This is the shrine of the Nakatomi Ōharai no Norito purification invocation to Seoritsuhime Kami.

Jinja Home Page 

Sakunado Jinja  佐久奈度神社   http://sakunado.jp/

 

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A Modern View of Shinto:  Scholar and Shinto Priest Minoru Sonoda

Chichibu-Jinja

Entrance of Chichibu Jinja. Photo by Commons Wikimedia

Preface

Dr. Minoru Sonoda (薗田/稔) is chief priest of Chichibu Jinja (秩父神社) Shinto shrine in Saitama, as well as professor emeritus of Kyoto University and professor at Kogakkan University. His doctorate in religious studies is from Tokyo University.

Dr. Sonoda is chairman of the International Shinto Research Association for the exchange of research with people overseas who are studying Shinto. Although Dr. Sonoda is identified with Shinto, he promotes the idea that Shinto is not a “religion” in the Western sense of the word. Rather, Shinto is a type of community tradition that has naturally developed. Instead of being an individual faith-based activity, Shinto is community, culture, and heritage closely tied to nature. When put this way, doesn’t it seem that Shinto is far from being exclusive to Japan, and instead can be understood and practiced by people around the world?

Interview

An interview conducted by Satsuya Tabuchi appeared in SPF Voices Newsletter of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation in 2006. Click here for the full report in English. An article about Dr. Sonoda appears here. Click here for Chichibu Jinja’s home page.

Here are some highlights of the topics discussed with SPF. We presume that Dr. Sonoda, as Shinto priest, used the term kami which was translated into gods. Since the word kami does not accurately translate into the Western word gods, we prefer to keep the term kami. 

Kami, unseen spirits behind the scenes

Kami abide in specific places such as sources of water or other places that are important to life. Kami are unseen to the human eye. What is sacred “lurks in the depths of the forest. It is a psychic center behind the community, not in the middle. Even if Japan’s gods don’t have form, they dwell within pure objects as spirits.”

Culture and agriculture

Shinto is the product of agrarian culture. The word culture comes from the Latin colere meaning to inhabit, cultivate, protect, and honor. People who settled peacefully in a particular place developed culture. People grow crops and receive their life. Receiving life and giving thanks for it is how Shinto views life. This world view developed naturally in the agrarian society.

Nature and life

Human beings, imbued with life by nature, live together with nature. Shinto honors the preciousness of life.

What is life?

“Life isn’t something that lasts just one generation. Life is life precisely because it’s passed on from parents to children. This is the most valid way for human beings to view life.”

Afterword

Dr. Sonoda is proactive in the chinju no mori sacred forest movement. What is chinju no mori? Mori means forest. Chinju is written 鎮守. The first character 鎮 is read as shizumeru, to calm the spirit; the second character 守 is mamoru which means to protect. Thus, we may say chinju no mori is a forest whose tranquility is protected. In other words, let’s protect the peace and serenity provided us by forests.

Related to this is the shinrin yoku trend, often translated as “forest bathing.” Shinrin is the compound word, forest-grove, and yoku simply means to bathe. People are going to forested areas for personal peace and tranquility as well as for proven health benefits.

 

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Sendai Tanabata Matsuri, August 6-8, 2018

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Sendai Tanabata

Sendai Tanabata festivals have been popular events since the time of the first lord of Sendai and hero Date Masamune (1567 – 1636). Two million visitors have been attending in recent years. The civic center and business areas are festooned with colorful streamers representing light coming from stars. To adjust for our modern solar calendar, Sendai observes Tanabata in August. This year, the dates were August 6, 7, and 8, 2018. Tanabata has become a romantic story of two Milky-Way-crossed lovers who meet once a year on this night. This adjunct to the original weaving theme probably came from China in the 8th century, and was further enlarged upon by Sendai merchants in the 17th cenury. So it is now a far cry from the simple nature-based Jomon festival.

Tanahata Maturi of Jomon Period

The Tanabata Hoshi Matsuri goes far back to Jomon times, when it was called Tanahata Hosi Maturi, the weaving loom star festival of the seventh night of the seventh lunar month. This is the night of the first quarter moon of our eighth month. On that night, Jomon people would look up at the Milky Way and thank ancestors for providing food and shelter and clothing. As part of the ceremony, they would perform ritual weaving on the tanahata loom. And in their gratitude and joy for all their blessings, they would dance all night. Weaving is a metaphor for the orderliness of Universe, where warp and woof threads are properly aligned and balanced. And where warp and woof represent male and female, without their meeting there would be no children.

This is one of the many seasonal maturi described in the the Hotuma Tutaye and Misakahumi ancient documents written in Wosite characters.

Modern Tanabata Decorations

These photos were taken on August 8, 2018 in Sendai. Note the kusudama balls below which streamers of washi paper float in the breeze. The traditional tanzaku strips of paper have wishes written on them and are hung on bamboo branches. There were many modern designs as well. And, as usual, there are decorations of thousands of origami cranes for peace.

Enjoy these cheerful works of art as you send your prayers of gratitude to your ancestors.

 

 

 

 

Photos by (c) C.N.

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Hokuriku: Imizu Shrines

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Takaoka-Jyo Koen

Two Imizu Shrines

There are two shrines in Takaoka-shi, Toyama-ken, with the name Imizu. They are both ichinomiya first shrine of Etchuu.

Imizu Jinja 射水神社

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The first one we visited was on the high grounds of the former Takaoka-jyo castle. It is now a public park with woods and streams in the middle of town. The enshrined deity is Ninigi no mikoto, grandchild of Amaterasu (Amateru) of Ise Jingu. Also known as Futagami for his promotion of cultivating rice, harvesting of five grains, and increasing commerce. The shrine has an ancient and honorable origin. Other gosaishin are Ooyamakui no kami, Jinushi no kami, Kukurihime no kami, and Take-minakata no kami. Kukurihime no kami is none other than Shirayamahime, aunt of Amateru. Please note that the chigi is female-cut, and the only female kami enshrined here is Kukurihime Shirayamahime.

 

 

The photo below is from the pamphlet of Imizu Jinja. It shows the Takaoka-Jyo Koen in the foreground, former site of Takaoka Castle on a flat hill surrounded by the moat. The shrine is in the center, adjacent to the grassy lawn. In the background is Futagami mountain.

Futagamiyam & Takaoka-jyo

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Futagami-Imizu Jinja 二上射水神社

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The smaller Futagami-Imizu shrine lies at the southern foot of the Futagami mountain. Futagami mountain is shintaisan, the sacred object of worship, and the deity is Futagami-Okami. The shrine faces due south, and the Futagami yama is behind it in the north.

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This is an old village shrine with an unspecified pedigree going back at least to the year 717. This shrine claims a miraculous 築山 Tsukiyama, constructed mountain, although we are not sure what it is. According to an old document called the Hakusan-ki, this was the original ichinomiya of Etchu but they lacked power to keep this position and lost it to the Imizu Jinja at Takaoka Jyo. As to who is the Futagami, various theories say Ninigi, Takeuchi, Amanomurakumo, and Oonamuchi.

 

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Hokuriku: Asahi and Yuuhi Shrines

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Toyama Bay from Asahi Jinja

Asahi & Yuuhi Jinja
These shrines are on the east coast of the Noto Peninsula in Toyama-ken. They are the morning and the evening shrines, for sunrise and sunset. The first enshrines Amaterasu/Amateru, and the other Toyouke Kami. We know from Woshite studies that Amateru was the grandson of Toyoke/Toyouke. They are respectively enshrined at Ise Jingu Naiku and Ise Jingu Geku. The Asahi and Yuuhi shrines are across highway from Toyama Bay. Both Asahi and Yuuhi shrine buildings were constructed in 1689.

Asahi  Jinja

Asahi’s first torii faces north. We measured the direction that the hall faces and it turned out to be 116 degrees SE. GPS readings were 36 degrees 55 min N, 137 deg 1 min E.
It is said that the kami of Ise Jingu, Amaterasu/Amateru was brought here before the Kamakura period (1185–1333). In olden days this shrine was revered as ubusu-gami, guardian of one’s birthplace. Both shrines are approached by a climb upwards and the prayer hall is on one’s right. The buildings are encased in glass (winters are extremely cold and snowy here) and so do not appear remarkable from the outside.
Just past the torii, we see the lanterns flanking the kaidan. So up we go. Along the way is this marvelous stack of stones.
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We reach the shrine hall and it looks very plain in its winter coat. But when we take a peek through the glass we see the lovely hinoki wood and a traditional capped hashira post.
Yuuhi Jinja

 

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Yuuhi Jinja is 500 m north of Asahi. It is adjacent to a school which you can see in the background. Although this sando faces the bay in the east, the shrine building is facing a southwesterly direction, sitting on the rock of the low mountain.
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Yuuhi Jinja was formerly dedicated to Kunitokotachi, the earliest named kami. However, since Asahi corresponds to Ise Naiku inner shrine for Amateru, Yuuhi is considered the Geku outer shrine for Toyouke-kami.
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