Category Archives: Sacred sites

Togakushi and Togakushi Jinja

Opening of the heavenly door by Tajiikarao as Ame-no-Uzume dances and myriad of kami welcome the emerging Amateru

Togakushi

Togakushi Village and the nearby Togakushi Shrine are situated in the north of Nagano within the Joshinetsu National Park, a 45-min drive from Nagano City. This volcanic area is at an altitude of 1,200m at the foot of the two volcanoes, Mt Togakushi 戸隠山 (1,904m) and Mt Iizuna 飯縄山 (1,917m).

Deeply steeped in mystery, Togakushi is part of the Ama-no-iwato Hirake myth, the opening of the Heavenly Cave Door. Ama-no-Uzume danced and Tatikarawo (Tajikarao) opened the Amanoiwato, and the door flew to Shinano/Nagano. Togakushi means hidden door.

Togakushi Jinja 戸隠神社 N 36.76, E 138.07, Alt 1289m 

Togakushi Jinja consists of five shrines at three shrine locations: the lower, middle, and upper shrine areas. The lower area has shrines 宝光社 Hōkō-sha  (Treasure of Light) and 火之御子社 Hino-miko-sha. The middle site has the 中社 Chū-sha (Middle Shrine). The upper area consists of the 奥社 Oku-sha (Deep Sanctuary) and 九頭龍社 Kuzuryu-sha.

Togakushi Jinja may have originated at Achi Jinja in southern Nagano. Togakushi’s Chū-sha and Achi Jinja both enshrine Omoikane.

Oku-sha 奥社

First torii to Oku-sha; map showing route from first torii through path of cedars up to Oku-sha; arrival at Zuishinmon gate before the upwards climb

Oku-sha, the oldest of the five, is the sanctuary of the shrine high up in the mountains. The Oku-sha enshrines Amateru and Tatikarawo (Tajikarao). The map shows the long path from the first torii to the Oku-sha. We went as far as the Zuishinmon Gate. The rest of the way would be all uphill. This site is considered a power spot and is immensely popular with those visiting the shrine as well as the walking-impaired who could enjoy the smooth walkways through nature.

Genbu.net has this to say about Oku-sha. The original kami of this sha were nine dragon-kami who dwell in rock caves. Dragons are associated with water and will relieve tooth decay problems if one prays to them. The legend of Tajikarao was introduced later.

Zuishinmon Gate of Togakushi Oku-Sha

Chū-sha 中社 Center Shrine

Chū-sha
Haiden of Chū-sha
Sazare-taki

Chū-sha means middle or center shrine. It is physically located in the center of the array of five Togakushi shrines. The second Togakushi sha (after Oku sha) to be establlished was Hōkō-sha, and Chū-sha was created midway between the two. Chū-sha enshrines the kami Omoikane. It is commonly said that Omoikane is “the kami who organized the kagura dance performance in front of the cave”. We have yet to find this reference in the Hotuma Tutaye Wosite document. However, the document tells us that Omoikane is the father of Tatikarawo who opened the cave door. Also known as Achihiko in Wosite history, Omoikane is a great-grandson of Toyoke Takamimusubi and he held the post of Hiyomi-no-miya, Master of the Solar Calendar, for Amateru. Omoikane is generally considered to be a kami of wisdom. The full story of Omoikane can be found in the Wosite documents.

Sacred tree

Hinomiko Sha 火之御子社, 日之御子社

Hinomiko Sha enshrines Ame-no-Uzume, the female kami whose dancing lured Amateru out of the cave. Also enshrined are Takamimusubi, Oshihomimi (son of Amateru), and his daughter Takuhatachichihime. In Wosite history, the best-known Takamimusubi is the grandfather of Amateru. It is said that the name Hinomiko refers to a kami of fire (hi), which seems rather out of place here. If the word Hinomiko were written with the character for sun (hi) instead of fire, 日之御子社, Hinomiko would mean the son of the kami of the sun, namely Amateru. This would make more sense.

Genbu.net has a comment on the name and the enshrined kami. Based on Oku-sha’s kami Tajikarao and Chu-sha’s Omoikane, Genbu says that Hinomiko sha’s kami Ame-no-Uzume is in error and she should have been named elsewhere.

Hōkō-sha and Kuzuryu-sha

We were unable to visit two of the five Togakushi sha. Hōkō-sha enshrines Ama-no-Uwaharu (another son of Omoikane) and a guard in the tenson korin myth. Kuzuryu Jinja Nine Dragon Shrine enshrines a water kami known as Kuzuryuu no Ookami from ancient times, or Benzaiten from later Buddhist times. In Japanese thought, dragons are associated with water, as is Benzaiten. We missed these two because we were unable to park the car at the Hōkō-sha, and the other is located at the top near Oku-Sha.

Kuzuryusha sits next to Okusha, and has been the central deity for the Togakushi worship as the local deity since the old time. As the deity who presides over the water, it is worshiped by the people engaged in agriculture in the wide area along Torii, Kusu and Susobana rivers, as well as the Echigo region, which is connected through the underground water.
Though the date of foundation is unknown, it was enshrined as the local deity before the enshrinement of Ame-no-tajikarao-no-mikoto. It is worshiped for its divine virtue of realization of wishes. It is also worshiped as the god of [dental] caries as well as of matchmaking.

From http://en.nagano-cvb.or.jp/modules/sightseeing/page/376
Togakushi Jinja plaque at Chū-sha

The comment about the original deity of Togakushi being a dragon-water being can lead one to regard the Togakushi shrines as being ancient sacred places honoring kami of nature such as water and fire. Later, historical figures were added, and even later some Buddhist elements were incorporated. There is still much that remains a mystery about Togakushi.

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Suwa Taisha Harumiya and Akimiya

Harumiya kagura-den in front of heihaiden

Harumiya and Akimiya, Lower Suwa Shrines

The Lower Shrines are on the north side of Lake Suwa. They are the Harumiya and the Akimiya, whose enshrined kami is said to be Yasakatome, spouse of Takeminakata.

Harumiya, Spring Shrine

Harumiya means Spring Shrine. It is in a shady location, and it has a sugi tree as goshintai. It has a haiden prayer hall but no honden containing a sacred object. The lack of a honden and having a sacred sugi tree indicate that this is an exceedingly old shrine, pre-Shinto, related to nature reverence. Having learned that this is where Yasakatome resides in the spring, we could feel her serene presence. It is said that she moves to Akimiya in the autumn. In the previous post we had learned that Takeminakata comes to visit her in wintertime.

Heihaiden prayer hall

A guide to Harumiya precinct can be found here.

Akimiya, Autumn Shrine

Temizuya with hot spring water

Akimiya means Autumn Shrine. It has the ichii tree as goshintai; there is no honden containing any sacred object. Akimiya has an exceptionally hot water temizuya for hand washing. Beware!

Heihaiden of Akimiya

When we approached the heihaiden prayer hall, the priest was performing a ritual (photo left below). After that, just before 5 o’clock, the priest conducted an additional ritual. There was chanting and the heavy beat of the taiko drum. We realized that this was a closing ceremony when we turned around to visit the shrine office to buy an amulet and found the windows being closed. We felt it was a privilege to be at the shrine at that dusky time of day. Somehow the kami seemed to be nearer…

A guide to Akimiya precinct can be found here.

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SHINANO: Where Earth and Spirit Meet

Shinano

2019 May found us on a field trip to the Kanayama Megaliths in Hida (Gifu Prefecture). After, we visited the adjacent former province of Shinano, now known as Nagano Prefecture. We had several reasons for our visit. We wanted to see the other, Eastern, side of the Hida mountains which border Hida and Shinano, and which form the Northern Japanese Alps. There is a map of provinces in time of Ieyasu. The map above is cropped from the insert and it shows Hida and Shinano separated by the Hida mountain range. We are interested in the watershed river systems and the cool lakes. We wanted to pray at Shinano’s ancient shrines, which were sacred places before they formally became shrine sites. And we had heard about the museum which houses the Jomon Venus and the Masked Goddess clay figures unearthed from the Jomon Period thousands of years ago. Although the two prefectures are adjacent on a map, they are not easily crossed from one to the other because of the mountains which separate them. For example, it takes five hours to travel from Hida Kanayama to Nagano City by limited-express train via Nagoya (348 km), compared with only 95 min from Tokyo (222 km) via Shinkansen. Below is the route from Nagano station to Kyoto station.

Nagano – Kyoto route by Google Maps

Japanese Alps

The Japanese Alps run through the center of the main Japanese island of Honshu. They are comprised of the mountain rainges:

Northern Alps: the Hida Mountains (飛騨山脈 Hida Sanmyaku), containing such important mountains as Ontake ( 3,067 m), Norikuradake (3,026 m), and Tateyama (3,015 m).

Central Alps: the Kiso Mountains (木曽山脈 Kiso Sanmyaku), including Mt Ena (2,191 m).

Southern Alps: the Akaishi Mountains (赤石山脈 Akaishi Sanmyaku).

Map centered on Lake Suwa in Nagano prefecture, shows the mountain ranges in shades of red. From Japan Atlas, A Bilingual Guide, Kodansha International, pp 20-21. Hida range NW of Suwa, Akaishi SE, and Kiso range between.

View of Mt Ontake from N36.03, E 138.05, Alt 815 m

We wanted to see Mt Ontake 御嶽山, Ontake-san, which straddles Gifu and Nagano prefectures. The elevation of this mountain is 3,067 m, the second highest volcano after Mt. Fuji. Indeed, this mountain is partly the reason why the prefectures are divided this way along the mountain ridges. The peak of Ontake could be seen from the lookout at a michinoeki, a good place to stop for lunch of the local kamameshi steamed mixed rice (1080 yen).

Mt Ontake, 3,067 m

Kiso River System 木曽川流域

The Kiso River (木曽川, Kisogawa) is 229 km long, flowing through 長野県 Nagano, 岐阜県 Gifu, 愛知県 Aichi, and 三重県 Mie prefectures into Ise Bay. The source of its waters is Mt Hachimori (2,191 m) in Nagano prefecture. It is the main river of the Kiso Three Rivers together with the Ibi-gawa and Nagara-gawa. The source of the Ibi is Mt Kanmuri in Gifu, and that of the Nagara is Gujo, also in Gifu. In our post at Yamanomiya, we showed the whirlpool in the Kiso-gawa at Kawakami Jinja in Yaotsu town in Minokamo. The Kiso River basin (including Shiga prefecture) is 9,1000 square km, the fifth largest in Japan.

Kiso River, viewed facing west at Michinoeki
Kiso River System. The Kiso River (blue line) flows through Nagano (upper right), Gifu (yellow), Aichi (lower right) and Mie (lower left) before pouring into Ise Bay.

Kisokoma Highlands  N 36.85, E 137.76, Alt 1036 m

Mt Komagatake ( 2,956m)

We started our visit at the Kisofukushima station in the southern part of Nagano. Kisofukushima is well-known through Hiroshige’s woodblock print, Fukushima-juku, in the series Sixty-nine Stations of Kiso Road, the Kisoji. The seventeenth century daimyo took this scenic road to Edo, the capital.

We learned that this region is called Shinshuu, in the highlands of Kisokoma . The name 木曽駒高原 Kisokoma Kougen is a composite of 木曽 for Kiso River, 駒 for Komagatake Mountain, and kougen 高原mountain pass. In case you’re wondering about the word 駒 koma which means small horse, the Kiso uma are famous. The tall mountains were still capped with snow in late May. Yet here at the Morino Hotel on the slopes at 1,000 m altitude it was a warm spring day with many wildflowers and green all around. It was hard to believe we were less than a half hour away from the station. Dinner was a gourmet treat of trout, tempura, chawan mushi, artisan tofu, misoshiru, and the tender Shinshuu gyu beef with hoba miso on a tabletop grill. We added a clear Kisoji sake. Dessert was a light raspberry-mango cream cheese. We would head out the following morning. We next present a series of reports on the places we visited.

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Power Places and the Kanayama Megaliths

Spotko 05 21 DSC03525_177

Megaliths as Power Places

Earth and Celestial Energies.  Humans have long held a deep relationship with Earth and its energies. Even as hunter-gatherers, early man knew places of power as sacred places. They gathered at these sites to honor and venerate life-giving energies of Earth and Sky.

People became aware of fluctuations of these terrestrial energies, and they realized that these earth cycles were related to celestial cycles, the movements of Sun, Moon, and stars in our sky. They knew how to live in harmony with these energies.

Megaliths.  Soon, humans learned that these energies could benefit the health and welfare of people and society, that these energies were associated with naturally occuring megaliths. They learned, as they settled down and began cultivating crops, how to improve their lives. At first, they utilized megaliths to mark significant places. Then they assembled them into megalithic structures, often moving huge boulders from far away, to these special sites — how we do not know. Thus, energies were enhanced. Energies could be redirected to areas where needed, for example, to their crop fields. Megalithic structures could be erected to tamp excessive earth energies such as those due to earthquakes.

As modern research technologies have advanced, and our minds have been opened to new ways of viewing early societies, we have come to better understand early man. These megalithic places served multiple purposes, the least and the last of which was to serve as cemeteries. Through more accurate dating of materials, we know that the structures were built in the 4,000 BCE time-frame, that they were later and only occasionally re-purposed as burial sites.

Purposes of megaliths.  As mentioned, megalithic sites served to mark sacred places; they were developed to manage earth and celestial energies to benefit society. And, finally, megalithic structures were designed and built and operated to serve as observatories. They could then provide accurate data for calendars and for predicting future celestial phenomena, to know when there would be significant changes in energy.

Each of these megalithic observatories investigated the celestial body pertinent to that particular site. Although these observatories were a late development, there are not so many that are known to us today. 

In summary, let’s list the purposes of megaliths and megalithic structures, in roughly chronological order.

+ Identify locations of sacred sites,

+ Hold sacred ceremonies to venerate life-giving force of Universe,

+ Control and manage energies for beneficial purposes,

+ Learn periodic fluctuations of celestial energies affecting earth energies,

+ Observe celestial phenomena in specially-built observatories to determine more exactly the timing of special energies,

+ Determine an accurate calendar of the year/years.

Kanayama Megalithic Observatory

Deep in a mountain forest on the main island of the Japanese archipelago lies a megalithic solar observatory. This site has recently come to the attention of those outside of Japan as the source of a super-accurate solar calendar. This calendar of the tropical year is based on sunlight observation and is 15 times more accurate than our modern calendar. The megaliths were shaped and assembled more than 5,000 years ago. We know, because later humans deposited ashes that have so been dated.

Japanese news media have termed this solar observatory a “power spot”. People have been coming from near and far to experience this remarkable achievement from long ago. They are amazed at the ancient people’s knowledge of astronomy, of their skill in shaping 100-ton and 200-ton blocks of stone, of moving them with precision into desired — and well-planned — configurations. These configurations enable a human observer to accurately track sunbeams and their patterns over the course of the year. at special times, special phenomena are observed. These times of observation determine the solar calendar.

This sun-tracking station is situated amidst tall trees in the mountains near a rushing river. To track the sun would have been simpler if the site were on a flat plain as in most other calendrical observatories. However, the site was cleverly chosen so that it could operate in winter as well as in summer, throughout the entire tropical year.

What’s also remarkable is that two non-specialist researchers have, in less than 20 years, decoded the purpose of this megalithic site. Actually, it is a system of three sites which cooperate to produce all the needed observations, and more. These modern researchers in fact have accomplished their own feat of reverse engineering. They have deduced, from what they themselves have observed, what the original purpose of each megalithic solar event was, and the functions of each megalithic structure.

And to top it off, they are able to explain to the large tour groups how it all works, in language that is simple and direct, uncluttered by scientific jargon. They have already published a fully-illustrated guidebook to the site and have a more technical bi-lingual book in preparation.

The Kanayama Megaliths are a living example of an ancient scientific system. To young children and adults alike it teaches basic astronomy ‘in the field’ so that everyone can experience being a sun tracker in megalithic times.

Concluding Remarks

Megaliths are found all over the globe. They are well-known in Europe, less evident in the Far East. This post was inspired by the article of Martin Gray  about megaliths of Europe. We then related it to our own research at Kanayama Megaliths.  Photo of a tour group at Kanayama Megaliths by Okunomichi.

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Yamanomoya – Mountains and Shrines of Mystery

As part of the research program on Ancient Japan, Okunomichi has paid a lot of attention to the jinja shrines and their kami that played a role in Hinomoto which led to modern Japan. Many shrines have been mentioned in ancient texts and by other researchers. For that reason, Okunomichi has been actually going to the mountains and visiting these historical jinja.

Now, Okunomichi is moving its posts on jinja and pyramid mountains to https://yamanomiya.wordpress.com/. So we would like to introduce you to Yamanomiya.

Jinja

The shrines described by Yamanomiya are connected historically to ancient documents in the Woshite literature (namely, the Hotsuma Tsutae). And to the kami that are prominent in that literature: Toyoke/Toyouke O-kami, Isanami-O-kami, Isanagi O-kami, Amateru-kami, Seoritsuhime, Shirayamahime, and others.

At Yamanomiya, there are a series of posts on the Moto-Ise shrines. These are the shrines where the kami of the current Ise Jingu Naiku and Geku — Amateru and Toyouke, respectively — were honored that were located, in Tamba no Kuni (in current Kyoto-fu), previous to Ise in the Kii peninsula. Legend says that it was Yamatohime who traveled from place to place until finally settling the enshrinements of Amateru Amakami and his grandfather Toyoke-Okami in Ise. This was long before the Ise shrines were adopted by the Imperial Family, even before there was even such a family.

Pyramid mountains

Yamanomiya also reports on the many pyramid mountains in Japan. In particular, you will find lists of pyramid mountains claimed by researchers Sakai, Kosaka, and Suzuki, Pyramid mountains were built thousands of years ago out of natural hills by human hands. They were made for ritual and societal purposes. They were usually flattened on top so that sacred ceremonies could be held, and today there are still shrines there.

Pyramids stabilized the land during earthquakes. They sent energy down to the land below to improve the productivity of farming. Pyramids and shrines were situated in very special geometrical and astronomical layouts. Frequently the lines connecting them pointed to the summer or winter solstice sunrises and sunsets.

And of course, the mountains of interest are considered especially sacred to kami, whether they are man-made or natural.

Let’s explore mountains and shrines with Yamanomiya!

 

 

Hida Koku and Birth of Hida Kuni Jomon Dynasty

Norikuradake_20160619_0001

Iwaya-Iwakage,our sister site, has just posted a series of articles that begins:

Birth of Hida Kuni Jomon Dynasty

The land of Hida, where the Kanayama Megaliths are located, may not be so well known historically as other parts of the country such as Kyoto and Nara. And yet its history stems from the Jomon Period, 12,000 BCE to 300 BCE. In the article presented below, the unnamed author declares that there are many folkloric sources that reveal the possibility that Hida was the  place where civilization began, ultimately leading to the modern nation of Japan. 

https://iwakage.wordpress.com/2016/06/23/hida-koku/

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Awa Mystery

Hi-no-michi map

Hi-no-michi Map, Izanagi Jingu, May 2016

In our post on Woshite World, https://woshiteworld.wordpress.com/2016/06/01/894/we mentioned a mystery of an alignment of shrines that has been proposed at Isanagi Jingu on Awajishima, in Awaji-no-kuni. We first encountered it here, Onogoro and Kuni-umi Myth.  Then we received much information from Hitoshi Uchiyama. We are grateful to him for sharing the results of his research.

There is a theory that all the “Awa” place names are related in some way. For the sake of discussion, let us disregard the kanji rendering of “Awa.” There are several different kanji and they may be totally irrelevant to the reasoning of the story. We must remember that Awa is a word from Isanami/Isanagi times, long before kanji was introduced into the written language. That is to say, “Awa” would have been written in Woshite moji with the Woshite syllables for “A” and “Wa.” In hiragana, it is written  あわ.

Awaji.  We have noted that Isanagi Jingu on Awaji island has a monument with a map of shrine alignments called Hi-no-michi. Hi-no-michi means path of the sun. This shrine is ichinomiya of Awaji. Note that Awaji means road to Awa.

Awa-no-kuni.  There are two Awa-no-kuni we’ve mentioned so far. The original at Oumi from the time of Isanami and Isanagi. The other is Awa-no-kuni on Shikoku, adjacent to Awaji (now Tokushima, home of the popular awa-odori). There is a third Awa in today’s Chiba-ken. And there is an indirect connection between Kumano and Awa in Chiba through some place names in common, such as Shirahama and Katsu-ura. 

Awa in Hida.   Norikuradake, Mt. Norikura, in Hida was once called Awa-dake, Mt. Awa. And, at the border of Hida and Shinano kuni (now Nagano), there is Abo-toge Pass, written with kanji that can be read “Awa-toge.” This makes four places where Awa is found.

Miyazaki.   Now, let’s introduce the (possibly) unifying element, Jimmu Tenno. He bore the name Kamuyamato-Iwarehiko in the seventh century BCE, a sixth-generation descendant of Isanami and Isanagi. He unified the land of Yamato beginning from Miyazaku, Kyushu. The Miyazaki area was called Himuka or Hyuga.

Iwarehiko developed plantations in different areas. Fusa-no-kuni is in present Chiba-ken. During the campaign, Iwarehiko was also in Osaka and Kumano. The similarity of cultures can be noted among Hyugo/Miyazaki, Awa/Shikoku, Kumano (east coast of Kii), and Awa/Chiba. These are all places visited by Iwarebiko. One can surmise that he is possibly the unifying factor among them. A look at the southern coastlines of Honshu, Shikoku and the eastern part of Kyushu — all places where he has been — can be convincing.

Alignment Theory.   This reasoning has led some to believe that perhaps Iwarehiko is the one who initiated the alignment of shrines such as that on the Hi-no-Michi of Isanagi Jingu on Awajishima. The shrine’s GPS coordinates are 34.46, 134.85.

Shrines of the Hi-no-Michi Alignment.   There are four cardinal directions and four solsticial directions, centered at Isanagi Jingu. At latitude 35 degrees, the solstice directions are 30 degrees north and south of east and west. (At latitude 34.5, the solstice angles are less than 30 degrees.) This makes for the stunning geometry seen in the alignment map. The cardinal shrines are:

North:   Izushi Jinja  出石 神社 (ichinomiya of Tajima 但馬国 , Tamba-no-kuni)

East:   Ise Jingu 伊勢神宮 (内宮 Naigu)     

South:   Yuzuruha Jinja  諭鶴羽(ユズルハ), Awajishima

West:   Kaijin Jinja 海神 神社(かいじんじんじゃ), Tsushima

The solsticial shrines are:

SSR:   Suwa Taisha 諏訪大社 (ichinomiya of Shinano  信濃国一宮)

WSR:   Kumano Taisha  熊野大社

WSS:   Takachiho Jinja  高千穂神社, Ama-no-Iwato Jinja  天岩戸神社

SSS:   Izumo Taisha  出雲大社 (ichinomiya of Izumo), Hinomisaki Jinja  日御碕神社

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