Category Archives: Hitakami

Tagajo Tsubo-no Ishibumi

Matsuo Basho, 1644-1694, left Edo on his famous journey to oku-no-hosomichi in 1689. He wrote in his travel diary:

[From The Essential Basho by Sam Hamill, Shambhala, 1998, pp 14-15]

‘At Taga Castle, we found the most ancient monument Tsubo-no-ishibumi, in Ichikawa Village. It’s about six feet high and three feet wide. We struggled to read the inscription under heavy moss:

          This Castle Was Built by Shogun Ono-no-Azumabito in 724. In 762, His Majesty’s Commanding General Emi-no-Asakari Supervised Repairs.

‘Dated from the time of Emperor Shomu, Tsubo-no-ishibumi inspired many a poet. Floods and landslides buried trails and markers, trees have grown and died, making this monument very difficult to find. The past remains hidden in clouds of memory. Still it returned us to memories from a thousand years before. Such a moment is the reason for a pilgrimage: infirmities forgotten, the ancients remembered, joyous tears trembled in my eyes.’

Note:  Emperor Shomu [聖武天皇, Shōmu-tennō, 701 – June 4, 756]

Photos taken at Tagajo, seat of ancient government, outside of Sendai, on October 12, 2010 below.


Ishibumi at Tagajo

IMG_0605 IMG_0617

From Hotsuma Tsutae, Aya 4 as posted in, we read that about the Toyoke’s palace at Tagajo:

‘Followed in turn by their retainers and servants, they [Toyoke, Isanami, Isanagi, and Amateru] now slowly moved on their way to Hitakami, Land of the Rising Sun. There, they all arrived safely at the Palace of Yamate (Sendai), the Ketatsubo government seat. As they arrived, the person of the Prince let out a dazzling radiance that shone out in all directions. Golden flowers blossomed all around, and the sand and fish in the sea, the trees and plants on the mountains, all shone with a golden yellow. Toyoke, moved by this sight, now bestowed on the Prince the imina or personal name of “Wakahito”, the Prince of Light. … Having thus entered the Palace of Yamate in the Land of Hitakami, the Prince now threw himself into earnest study of the Amenaru-Michi (“Way of Heaven”, the ways of sovereign government) at the new Amatsu Palace (“Palace of Heaven”). ‘

According to Mr. Takabatake of Japan Translation Center, Ketatsubo no hi (Tsubo no Ishibumi) at Tagajo may be the monument to commemorate Toyoke entering Taga palace on the ketatsubo palanquin. This monument is one of the oldest three important tsubos in Japan. [A tsubo is marks a special, often sacred, spot.]

From the display regarding the tsubo-no-ishibumi monument at the Tohoku History Museum display:

‘The two-meter high stone monument stands near the south gate of Tagajo. It was erected in 762 when Tagajo was rebuilt. The carved text refers to the location of Tagajo and its original construction in 724.’


Above is photo of the monument displayed in the museum. The image has been enhanced to enable reading of the inscription. The actual engraving is quite illegible as my Tagajo photo shows.

Taga Jinja in Tagajo City

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).

First View DSCN4542CC DSCN4553Haiden N DSCN4563DSCN4572

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?

Ukishima kaidan DSCN4574Ukishima J DSCN4575

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.

Iris Field DSCN4584DSCN4588

Koganeyama Jinja on Kinkazan Island

Kinkasan (金華山 Kinkasan?, or Kinkazan) is a small sacred island in Miyagi-ken in Tohoku. It is considered one of the Three Holiest Places in the region It lies in the Pacific Ocean off the Oshika Hantou Peninsula in Sendai Bay.  The shrine on the island is called Koganeyama-jinja.

The Oshika Peninsula was the closest part of Honshu to the epicenter of the March 11, 2011 Tohoku earthquake. It was heavily damaged and many died there. It was less than a year before that that we visited Kinkazan.

Kinkazan means mountain of gold flowers, for gold was mined there in historical times. Still, Kinkazan has been a sacred island since ancient times. It is on the Hotsuma map of important places. And ‘gold flowers’ reminds us of the golden flowers that  bloomed when the youthful prince Amateru went to Toyoke’s palace to study Amenaru-michi.

Kinkazan is a one-mountain island and is (was) easily reached by small boat.

A bus took us up to the Koganeyama Jinja. Koganeyama Jinja is a shrine for prosperity, its two main kami being Ebisu and Daikoku. You can buy any number of amulets and charms, including large decorative pieces called kumade. Kumade means rake, and the decorations are attached to a stylized rake.

Deer abound as they are under protection there. There is a charming painting of Benzaiten, goddess of water, speech, and music.

It was a lovely place to visit, and we hope that it has recovered since the disaster. We visited Ishinomaki City two years after it was devastated, and found promising signs of recovery. See our other post.


Sendai Bay is in Miyagi Ken.


Toyoke, Fifth Takamimusubi

During the time of the 6th Amakami Omotaru [Amakami is the ruler of Hotsuma], the weather changed and there was not much food. Toyoke was born in the family of the Takamimusubi, the ruling family of Hitakami in what is now called Tohoku. He was named Tamakine.

Toyoke governed Hitakami as the 5th Takamimusubi. He organized ceremonies for kami so that people could pray together in the same manner. He made the Futomani Motoake chart.

Toyoke was successful in increasing food production for his people. He was called Higashi-no-kimi, King of the East, and also Hotsuma-kimi. The people bestowed upon him the name Toyoke, or Toyouke. Here, ‘toyo’ means abundant, ‘u’ means greatness, and ‘ke’ is food.

Since the 6th Amakami Omotaru had no children, Toyoke resolved to find a solution. He asked his daughter Isako to marry Takahito and they would serve as the 7th Amakami. Takahito was the eldest son of Awanagi, ruler of Ne-no-kuni. This was the area known today as Hokuriku at the Sea of Japan and including Ishikawa and Toyama prefectures.

The couple became the 7th Amakami, Isanami and Isanagi. For a long while they had no children, and Toyoke was concerned that there would be no heir to rule Hotsuma. By his earnest praying a prince was born. This child became the 8th Amakami, Amateru.

Toyoke taught the young Amateru together with another grandson, Furimaro, in the Yamate Palace at Tagajo. The latter became Takagi, the 7th Takamimusubi, after his father Yasokine / Kanmimusubi.

Toyoke excelled at government, engineering, and education. He taught about horseback riding, obstetrics, metalwork, and yuki-no-michi.

Late in age, Toyoke was asked by Amateru to govern the San-in region, so he relocated to Miyazu in Tango (now Kyoto-Fu). When Toyoke knew he was about to die, he had a hokora tomb dug in the Kujigatake mountain of Mineyama-cho, 20 km northwest of Miyazu. He entered the tomb while still alive – this is called Toyoke-nori. He is deified at the Hinumanai Jinja at the foot of Kujigatake. Amateru, later, was also entombed at Kujigatake.

Note:  As Ikeda exclaims, Toyoke cannot be compared with anyone else. This is exemplified by Toyoke creating the Futomani chart to teach the Way. That is why we are devoting many posts to the life and teachings of Toyoke. We have also visited his shrines in Hitakami, Omi, and San-in, as well as the Geku of Ise Jingu and the Moto-Ise shrines of Tanba.

This is an edited excerpt from the encyclopedia of Ikeda Mitsuru, 1999, 308pp.

HOTSUMA TSUTAE Part 2: Founding the Lands of Hotsuma and Hitakami

Kunitokotachi had eight sons who are called the Kunisatsuchi. Their names are: To, Ho, Ka, Mi, Ye, Hi, Ta, and Me. Their full names are, for example, To-no-Kunisatsuchi. They were each given a land to rule and develop.

To-no-Kunisatsuchi arrived at the Land of Hotsuma bearing seeds of plants and trees. The center of Hotsuma was at Harami, now called Mt Fuji. He planted the eternal tachibana orange tree on Harami and called it Kaguyama, Fragrant Mountain.

In the Land of Hitakami, to the east-north-east, now called Tohoku, the descendant of Ta-no-Kunisatsuchi was the Fifth Takamimusubi, Tamakine. The Heavenly Realm, Takamagahara, was created at the palace in Tagajo. It was so abundant a land that Tamakine was given by the people the name Toyoke, the Receiver of Plenty. Toyoke followed the Amenaru-Michi, the Way of Heaven, prescribed by Kunitokotachi.

Ka-no-Kunisatsuchi went to China and became an ancestor of Nishi-no-Haha, Mother of the West, known by the Chinese as Xi Wangmu (or Hsi Wang Mu). She came to Toyoke to study with him and returned to China bearing a plant of the fruit-bearing peach tree.

Taga Taisha, in Omi/ Biwako/ Shiga Ken

Taga Jinja in Tagajo-shi sent part of its kami spirit to Taga Jinja in Omi. This jinja has become Taga Taisha near Biwako in Shiga Ken. I visited Taga Taisha in June, 2012. We had yummy tempura ramen across from the entrance torii. Later we went back for matcha soft cream. Also yummy!


There is a semi-circular bridge just past the entrance torii. It is supposed to be good luck to go over it, and young children have a ball clambering over it. It is rather difficult for adults to traverse.


There was also a circular green shimenawa called a chinowa made of grass or reeds. Passing through a chinowa is said to bring good luck.


The keidai shrine precinct is very large and it must accommodate nearly a million visitors on Hatsumode on New Year’s Day.


We looked for a a trace of Toyoke Okami. We finally found it on the side, rather than in the back where we would have expected old, original jinja to be found. This is where the original Taga Jinja would have been, after it was sent here from Tagajo in Miyagi. DSCN5439

Taga Jinjas at Tagajo Ruins Site

Tagajo is a seat of government from olden days. There are remains of buildings, and even today there are two shrines called Taga Jinja. I will show you the remains and the shrines. I believe that the second shrine is the older, for it honors Izanagi and Izanami.


We will post a third Taga Jinja, and this shrine in another part of Tagajo City is may be the most important of the many Taga Jinja. It was the origin of the Taga Jinja (now Taga Taisha) in Shiga Ken (our fourth Tagajo Jinja).

Towada Jinja

Towada Jinja sits on a peninsula of Towada Ko (Lake) in Aomori.  Towada Ko is the third deepest lake in Japan, a crater lake.  The jinja has an entrance from the village, and it honors Yamato Takeru. The site is green and other-worldly. There is, deeper in and up a long flight of steps, a Dragon Shrine. The main shrine to Yamato Takeru is beautifully carved, as are the smaller hokora.

IMG_0391 IMG_0401 IMG_0402 IMG_0409 IMG_0410 IMG_0411 IMG_0419 IMG_0420 IMG_0423 IMG_0424 IMG_0438   Lake Towada is said to have a pyramid mountain. Can you see it on the map above the peninsula on the right? We tried to see it from the eastern shore, but could not.

Arahabaki by Torii

Continuing the previous post, we have the following from Rei Torii. Furthermore, concerning Tsugaru myth, at Taga,  the Arahabaki king Hararaya placed a transmission. And at the sacred place point the Hotsuma transmission was inscribed on the stone monument (Tohoku no dokoka ni aru tosareru nihon chuou no ishibumi) can be seen. And after Hotsuma land had been handed over, Okuninushi went to a secluded life in Aribe forest; this is in an important transmission.

The point here is that there was an Arahabaki king. Perhaps Arahabaki is the name of a culture or civilization in the Tagajo-Sendai region.

Regarding the image:(Left) A group of Japanese gods, the Arahabaki from Tsugaru Soto-Sangun History, one of Japanese Ancient History and Legends, which dates earlier than The Kojiki.

(Right) Also the Arahabaki from Tsugaru Soto-Sangunshi History. Is this a god in a space suit?

東日流外三郡誌 [昭和46年] Tsugaru Soto Sangun-shi [1949], 428 pages, published by Shiura Sonshi Hensan Iinkai, 1981.


アラハバキ(荒覇吐、荒吐、荒巾)信仰は、東北地方一帯に見られる民俗信仰。Arahabaki belief is a folk belief found in the Tohoku region.

On the Tauchiyama Jinja 丹内山神社 (Iwate Ken) premises, there is a kami called 荒覇吐 (アラハバキ)大神 Arahabaki Okami. There is also a megalith since 1300 years ago, on the sacred grounds of this shrine, that has been the sacred body of the kami, an important object of worship.