Category Archives: Shrines

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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DSC06113 Oharano altar

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

DSC06118 Koisawa-ike

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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.

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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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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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Hokuriku: Nou Hakusan Jinja

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Nou Hakusan Jinja

Benten Iwa 弁天岩

Benten iwa is an eye-catching small island immediately off-shore near the Nou Hakusan Jinja.  The two sites are geologically connected, having the same type of stone. Benten is short for Benzaiten, deity of water, originally the Hindu Saraswati. Made by the eruption of the submarine volcano of Fossa Magna 3 million years ago, Benten Iwa is one of the Geosites of Itoigawa Geopark. Itsukushima shrine to Benzaiten (Ichikishima-hime) as the guardian deity of the sea is on the island. The Itsukushima Shrine is considered a satellite shrine of Hakusan. The lighthouse continues to light the way for fishing boats coming back to the Nosei fishing port. There are large koinobori carp kites swimming in the strong wind over the Japan Sea. 2018-05-16 18.03.56 Benten Iwa

Benten Iwa

Nou Hakusan Jinja 能生白山神社

The Nou Hakusan Jinja is on the side of a small yama near Benten Iwa. In a sense, Benten Iwa is an extension of the mountain. Nou Hakusan is a Hakusan jinja in the Nou district. The honden was built in 1515, although it must have an older origin as a sacred place.  Nou Hakusan contains a number of relics of Hakusan Worship and is a bridge to the Nou Region’s ancient history. It is a Nationally Registered Important Cultural Property. The top photo shows the thatched roof of the prayer hall which resembles that of the Amatsu Jinja, shown earlier.

Kukurihime (Shirayamahime) was the earlier gosaishin. Shirayamahime is the guardian of Hakusan. During the Meiji period, her name was replaced by Nunokawa-hime’s. The current gosaishin are Nunakawahime 奴奈川姫命Isanagi no Mikoto  伊佐奈岐命 and  大己貴命 Oonamuchi no Mikoto. The kami trio of Shirayamahime (original gosaishin), Isanagi, and Oonamuchi are closely connected in the Hotsuma Tsutaye. Isanagi was the father of Amateru. When Amateru was born, Shirayamahime heard him speak his name, Uhirugi. That is how she received her Kukurihime name (she heard him). Amateru’s younger brother was Sosanowo, and Oonamuchi was Sosanowo’s son. 

Nou Hakusan Honden

While the dramatic building of the haiden faces the open grounds, the mysterious honden is in the woods behind the haiden. 

Akiha Jinja 秋葉神社

On the grounds of Nou Hakusan is a small shrine, the Akiha Jinja. The next post will show another Akiha Jinja in Itoigawa town.

Nou Hakusan Akiha Jinja

All photos by Okunomichi 2018.

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Hokuriku: Amatsu Shrine

The Amatsu and Nou Hakusan shrines have such strikingly similar architectures, namely their thatched roofs, that we are reporting them sequentially. They are both in the city of Itoigawa (糸魚川), Niigata-ken (新潟県), and they both enshrine Nunakawa-hime, the heroine of this region, plus other kami of interest to those who study the Woshite documents. 

Amatsu Jinja 天津神社

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Amatsu Jinja, ichinomiya of Echigo (Niigata), is a few minutes walk from Itoigawa station. When you arrive at the site, cross over a bridge and turn to your left to the temizuya, then resume your path. You are taken to a higher level so you are on a yama. You make a final left turn and suddenly the striking haiden prayer hall comes into view on your left. The hall has an immense thatched roof. There are three altars in the haiden: 奴奈川神社 (Nunokawa Jinja)、天津社 (Amatsu Sha)、住吉の扁額 (Sumiyoshi Hengaku).

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The primary gosaishin of Amatsu Jinja is Amatsu-hikohikoho-ninigi-no-mikoto, or  Ninikine. Ninikine (Ninigi) is enshrined in several sacred sites in this Hokuriku area of Niigata and Toyama, far from his home area of Kansai. Ninikine is Wakeikazuchi, kami of Kamigamo Jinja in Kyoto. Also enshrined here are Amenokoyane no Ookami and Futodama no Mikoto; both are mentioned in Aya 20 of Hotsuma Tsutaye. Amenokoyane was Tsurugi no Tomi to Amateru. He was the author of Mikasafumi.

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Amatsu Jinja Honden

The Amatsu honden is detached from the haiden and is in the back with other hokora. In the background of the haiden photo, you can see a row of hokora. The one that is visible in the photo is Nunakawa-hime Jinja, left of the honden. Nunakawa-hime is a popular heroine of Itoigawa and she is regarded as kami of jade found in the area. There is a dragon carved on the lintel, closeup photo.

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Nunakawahime Jinja

On the right of the honden is the 聖神社 Hijiri Jinja ( hijiri means sacred). 

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Next to it is a compound of small stone hokora, and they have the great charm of age.

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Japanese Swordsmithing at Atsuta Jingu

Sugisaka 番号付き熱田 刀剣奉納 

Atsuta Jingu is the shrine in Nagoya which holds the sacred sword, the Kusanagi. The Kusanagi belonged to hero Yamatotakeru, son of Emperor Keiko, who died in the year 113 CE. A sword-making event was held at the Atsuta Jingu on 2017 July 8-10. The master swordsmith is Fujiyasu Masahira of Fukushima.

Sugisaka Kazuo attended this event and took a number of photos of the process. A composite photo was made from photos taken on July 8 and 9. The sword was inscribed on July 10. Please refer to the sword-making process in the book*. There are 24 numbered photos in the composite. The 24 steps are described here, followed by a glossary.

1.    Make horizontal incisions for folding.

2.    Fold back.

3.    Stretch into a flat layer.

4.      After reaching high temperature, warabai is attached.

5.      Make the folded face smaller by hammering. At this time, impurities become sparks and fly off.

6.      The same.

7.   Make vertical incisions for folding.

8.       Fold back.

9.       Same as Step 4. Repeat Steps 1 – 9 many times.

10.Detach the kawagane (sheath).

11.Bend into U shape.

12.Bend again.

13.Wrap the shingane (core) in the kawagane. (Shingane was made in a similar fashion.)

14.The same as above.

15.Hammer to make shingane and kawagane smaller.

16.Bit by bit lengthen into shape of katana.

17.Morning of next day. Adjust the shape.

18.Holding the nakago (tang), check the result.

19.Adjust with yasuri tool.

20.Adjust shape with sen, iron shaving tool.

21.Shape is complete. However, the blade is not yet an acute angle.

22.In order to put in  hamon (a wavy pattern), yakibatuti is applied.

23.Yakubatuti is minutely applied to the spine of the sword near the tip.

24.Tempering immediately follows. (Tempering takes place in darkness, when the electric light is extinguished. As soon as the katana is inserted in the water, the light is turned on again.)

July 9 20:00. After this, in order to check the blade pattern, it was sharpened with a grinding stone.

July 10. The nakago (tang) is inscribed. The swordsmith’s work is now complete.

Glossary

 心鉄 shingane, core

皮鉄 kawagane, sheath

藁灰 warabai, straw ash made by burning straw

焼刃 yakiba, hardened zone

焼刃土 yakibati, a mixture of clay, charcoal, whetstone powder which has been kneaded together.

棟 mune, spine

刃 ha, blade, cutting edge of sword

刃紋 or 刃文 hamon, blade tempering pattern, ripples due to tempering

茎 nakago, tang (prong) of sword

* Book information

写真で覚える

日本刀の基礎知識

Sword book 基礎知識表紙

Introduction to Japanese Swords through Pictures

発行人(Publisher)

吉原荘二

小林敏雄(テレビせとうちクリエイト)

発行所(Place of Publication)

株式会社テレビせとうちクリエイト

http://www.tsccreate.co.jp/

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